Memphis freshman Jalen Duren will enter the 2022 NBA draft, he told ESPN Monday.
“My plan is to sign with agent Chafie Fields of Wasserman and enter the NBA draft,” Duren said.
Duren, the No. 7 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named AAC Freshman of the Year and First-team All-AAC after averaging 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 25 minutes.
“Going to Memphis was a fun experience,” Duren said. “It was a great challenge. Making the NCAA tournament and playing in front of the whole world on national television. Huge game atmospheres. I learned a lot and it really helped my growth and development. During the season we dealt with a lot of injuries, we couldn’t quite get the chemistry right on the court. Once we got everyone back, it helped the team and my game. I started to understand the game better. Help defenses. How opponents were guarding me. I noticed that more as the season went on and that allowed me to do a lot more.”
Duren burst onto NBA radar screens as a 15-year old as the youngest member of a USA Basketball team that won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Brazil, averaging 10.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 18 minutes.
Now the youngest college player currently projected to be drafted, Duren was the No. 1 recruit in his class when he elected to graduate high school a year early and enroll at Memphis, two weeks after guiding Team Final to a Nike EYBL championship. He also led Montverde to a high school championship at the Geico Nationals in April.
“I’ve always been big on development,” Duren said. “Playing up as a younger player helped me grow. I was at the point in high school where I wanted a bigger challenge, to continue to be pushed and compete against older guys. We won a lot and there was nothing more I could get out of there.”
Playing his first games in college as a 17-year-old, Duren faced a steep transition from high school as Memphis got off to a slow start at 9-8. He played a major role in its revival, winning 12 of the next 13 games to surge into the postseason, where Memphis lost a close game in the Round of 32 to Gonzaga, with Duren hobbled by foul trouble.
“The coaches at Memphis: Penny Hardaway, Larry Brown, Cody Toppert, Rasheed Wallace all helped me develop in a lot of different ways in terms of understanding the NBA terminology, and the atmosphere to expect in the league,” he said. “That played a huge part in my decision. Everyone on the coaching staff coming from the NBA. That was my big goal in going to college, and seeing the amount of NBA knowledge on the staff was appealing and helped my development a lot. It ended up being a great move for me.”
Duren likely cemented himself as a top-10 draft pick with his outstanding combination of physical tools (6-foot-11, 250 pounds, 7-5 wingspan), power, explosiveness and budding skill, which is unmatched in this draft class. Duren was a major force inside the paint on both ends of the floor for Memphis, be it crashing the glass, protecting the rim or finishing ferociously around the basket, giving him a ready-made role for early in his NBA career. The fact that he also shows glimpses of court vision, passing and shooting range gives him plenty of upside considering his age.
“I’m looking forward to showing NBA people how much better I’ve gotten with my skill level and what my game really is with my touch around the basket and shooting the ball,” he said. “There are a lot of little things I can bring a NBA team with my effort, energy, mindset and work ethic. I’m big on winning. I’ll do whatever it takes to get the W.”
Duren says he’s studying many NBA players’ tendencies to help transition to the next level.
“A guy like Evan Mobley — he had a big impact defensively on the Cavs — bringing size, length, mobility. I want to be that kind of guy early on, have that same type of impact. I also study guys like Bam Adebayo and Nikola Jokic,” he said. “The ball runs through them and they can really pass. My game fits that. I can guard 1-5. Hedge and switch on ball screens and read all the pick and rolls. I’ve developed all those things very well. I love watching Joel Embiid, Giannis, KD too.”
The NBA draft combine is scheduled for May 16-22 in Chicago, and the draft will be June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.