Brakefield, Coleman step into larger roles with star F Jalen Johnson (foot) out indefinitely for Duke

Duke basketball will be without star freshman forward Jalen Johnson for an indefinite period of time. Tuesday evening the program announced that Johnson has a foot injury; he won’t play this week at Notre Dame.

During the first four games of the season, Johnson has averaged 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest. A versatile offensive talent, Johnson is a key source of offense for the Blue Devils. He’s also a powerful engine of transition offense for Duke. Johnson is at his best in the open floor. He’s shot 81.3 percent at the rim this season.

Turnovers have been a bit of an issues for Johnson: 28.6 percent turnover rate. Michigan State and Illinois both neutralized Johnson in the half court by sticking a center on him and sagging off.

Regardless, Johnson safely projects as a top-10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. As a star prep player, though, Johnson missed time in high school with an undisclosed injury.

Johnson has some deficiencies on the defensive side of the floor; however, he’s made some plays as a team defender. The 6-foot-9 forward has eight blocks (No.1 on the roster) and four steals through the first games, too.

While Duke, which has been pinched for offense at times this season, will certainly miss Johnson’s transition talents, the team has additional firepower at the hybrid forward spots. Two other freshman — Jaemyn Brakefield and Henry Coleman — have shown real flashes this season. Brakefield adds some 3-point shooting/stretch to Duke’s rotation. Coleman, on the other hand, is a rebounding bully and strong team defender.

Duke could also take things in a more conventional manner. Matthew Hurt has played a lot of the 5 so far this season. That trend will continue, but an advantage of Hurt at the 5 was it helped open the floor for Johnson’s drive game. Without that, Duke could slot Hurt at the 4, and play a more traditional center, too: Mark Williams or Patrick Tape.


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