Jalen Johnson opting out should wake up NCAA

Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and SI's Pat Forde react to Duke freshman Jalen Johnson leaving to prep for the NBA.

Video Transcript

DAN WETZEL: What are we doing that doesn't motivate a kid to stay? What-- you know, in the-- I remember there's, like, an old line. I think it was, like, Grant Hill, like, hit one of the reasons he stayed for his senior year is he was too scared to go in to talk to Krzyzweski and tell him he wanted to leave, right? Those days are over.

And if you still-- and I'm not saying Duke is doing this, but if you're still running your program that way, Duke isn't, obviously, he's well aware when these guys show up they want to leave right away. But if you create the right culture or you create the right situation, people will stick around. You know, and I don't know the internals on this, but obviously Jalen Johnson saw this as straight business.

And that's what he was there for. And so maybe the way we look at it, the way a lot of fans look at it, the way a lot of coaches look at it, and you go, god, what would be better than being a Duke basketball player and all these things. Obviously, you don't have the campus life that you normally have. You don't have Cameron Indoor.

You don't have all these things that would seemingly make you say, no, I want that one more shot at Carolina. I want-- that stuff, you have to work harder as a coach now to create a system that makes people want to stay. Not just a guy leaving in the middle of a season to be a draft pick, but also your regular player from transferring.

We talk about in football, like, the transfer portal, if you can-- at Alabama, they don't transfer out, unless they're not playing. Those guys sit and wait their turn. And you're Matt Jones, and you say, I'm going to be that guy. If you can create that atmosphere, then Matt Jones doesn't leave.

And then that one year where you maybe don't have that perfect quarterback, oh, actually, we do. So I think a little of this is on the coaches to say, what are we doing to keep guys? Because this is a business deal for some of these players. Some aren't, some are. And there's nothing wrong with that because it's a business deal the other way.

And for years and years, coaches basically ran dudes off, over-recruited on them, they didn't believe in them, all that stuff. So it's a fair play. But that would be my thing with college coaches is part of your job is not just to lament the portal but wonder what you created that sends guys running to the portal.

PAT FORDE: It's a great point. It really is, is that, yes, a little bit of self reflection really for individual college coaches and for the college game as a whole about, why do people have so little interest in staying and playing in your sport? And we've talked about this before.

But that some-- you know, when they can get back to having the NABC convention at the Final Four, maybe have them-- they do have plenty of seminars and all those sort of things. But carve out a little bit of time so that not everybody is just hitting the bars wherever they are and say-- let's get together and say, what do we do with our sport here so that people don't think the G League or transferring or whatever is the better option? I don't know whether it's an easy fix, but it's certainly something that needs to be addressed.

PETE THAMEL: Yeah, and one of the reasons why Duke is lagging where it is now is because Jonathan Kuminga did not go to Duke. Like, he was that sort of transformative guy. And we're going to really start to feel that G League pull of elite talent affect these programs. And honestly, it's two businesses competing against each other, which Adam Silver recognized so far ahead of Mark Emmert and everyone else in college athletics.

I mean, you can blame Emmert because if he was a great businessman, he would have made college basketball a better place for the top talent, a better place for James Wiseman, a better place for all the guys who just found other ways to go. And there's been nothing about this G League experiment, especially in this messy year, to me that's going to keep guys from continuing to go that route.

So I think that's going to be one of the fascinating tensions to really watch over the upcoming-- over the upcoming years.