The nation’s No. 1 overall recruit has plenty of options to consider as he decides the next step of his basketball career, choosing between an array of collegiate and professional avenues to spend his (likely) one-and-done season prior to making the jump to the NBA.
Jalen Duren is down to 11 options, with Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Miami (FL), Memphis, Michigan, Penn State, UCLA and Villanova left standing among college programs, along with the G League and National Basketball League (NBL) being included among professional options.
The headlining talent at the 2021 Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas, Duren sat down with KSR to discuss his recruitment, upcoming visits, the pros and cons of going pro out of high school, and upcoming name, image and likeness rules, among other topics. Check out the full conversation below:
What’s it like being on the road at a high-profile event like this?
It’s fun. I just came out here to have fun and compete. I’ve never been on the West Coast, so I just wanted to come out here and see it, enjoy the life and compete against other great players. Playing against the nation’s best, the only thing you can do is get better. These are the best guys in the country in our class, along with 2023, so we’re just helping them get better and they’re helping me get better.
How excited are you about playing in front of coaches and scouts this summer?
That’s going to be amazing. Because of COVID, we didn’t get the chance to play last year, unfortunately. Coming into this year playing with Team Final, we’ve been having a good run so far and we’re looking to keep it up. I know a lot of guys on that team have a lot of stuff to prove as far as who they are as players, so it should be fun. I’m just excited to come out, play in front of a bunch of scouts and show them how much better I’ve gotten since the last time they’ve seen me.
What do you think of Dereck Lively as a player and his growth since teaming up with you on Team Final?
I tell people all the time: Dereck Lively is my favorite player. I’ll be honest with you, playing with Dereck is so easy because he doesn’t do anything wrong, doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, he’s just so consistent. Him being on the team is such a huge factor. People who try to say it’s just me, it’s not me, it’s the whole team. Dereck is the one — we have a lot of good players, but Dereck is the most consistent. I tell everybody he’s my favorite player. He should be way higher than what he is now, even top 15 is too low for me. He’s top five.
Me and Dereck definitely go at it a lot, we just want to make each other better. I respect Dereck’s game a lot, and I know he respects my game. That’s one of my guys. We just compete, make each other better in practice.
Could we see a package deal with you and Dereck at the next level?
I feel like both parties — he’s going to do what’s best for him, I’m going to do what’s best for me. Us playing together, if that happens, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. For me, I’m always going to do what’s best for me and I want him to do what’s best for him. I don’t want to try and persuade him on a decision, he knows exactly what he’s doing. If it happens, that would be amazing. If it doesn’t, it’s still all love.
How are you handling the recruiting process and juggling college and pro options?
I’m taking my time with it, honestly. I’ve got a great people behind me helping me out, keeping my head on basketball and them organizing the business side. I dropped my top 11 about a month ago, so right now, I’m just talking with everyone and seeing what’s best for me, seeing where my game will develop and where I can grow as a person, too. It’s not just about basketball, it’s about who I am as a person and getting better all around.
What is it like being an athlete with serious interest from professional leagues?
I don’t try to take it for granted, I know I’ve been blessed with these opportunities. I don’t really look at the money too much, I’m not really a flashy guy who really needs the money. People automatically think, ‘oh, they’re going to offer money, so he’s going to go there.’ I don’t think like that. It’s really about development for me, I try to preach that a lot. Everyone I talk to whether it’s pro or college, it’s about how they’re going to develop me. When I look at the money aspect, it’s not really about that for me. I don’t care too much about it. I mean, it’s good to have, but it’s not going to make the decision for me. With teams and their own success, I feel like that’s a big win. Schools like Michigan and UCLA, a couple of the other schools on my list, Kentucky, the history of Kentucky, Michigan making a big run last year, UCLA making a huge run last year, it just goes to show that’s their type of culture. It’s definitely a good feeling about where I could fit in and how they love to win too.
Will the new name, image and likeness rules play a part in your decision? Are schools incorporating that into their pitches?
It just started so a lot of people are just trying to figure out what it really is. As people learn more and more about it, coaches are starting to show me their plan about how they’d be able to market me and brand me. Like I said, the money is cool, but it’s not really a big thing for me. If someone offered me this much and someone else offered me a different amount, it’s not like I’m just going to go here because it was more money. As I learn more and more about it and my family learns more and more about it, and other people, coaches learn more about it, I’ll be able to speak more about the NIL. I feel like it is a good idea to give athletes the money they deserve.
How is the visit process going? Do you have any trips scheduled?
Right now off the top of my head, I’ve got three visits set up: Miami, Memphis and Kentucky. The other two, I haven’t set them up yet. I think it’s in the works, but right now, I know I’ve got Miami, Memphis and Kentucky set up. Kentucky is the end of June, and then Memphis at the end of June. Miami is this weekend or next weekend.
Can you see a difference with Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman on staff at Kentucky? What has that transition been like?
Definitely. I had a Zoom call not too long ago with Coach Orlando and Coach Chin, just them introducing themselves. Coach O recruited me while he was at Illinois, so I kind of talked to him already, but when he got to Kentucky he wanted to continue that. I definitely see them changing around their whole program for the betterment, continue the success they’ve been having. Everyone knows Kentucky and the history, it speaks for itself. I definitely notice the energy they’re bringing and I like it.
When would you like to cut your list down further and ultimately make a final decision?
I’d probably say before the end of the summer probably. I can’t really say when, honestly. For me, I’m not one of those guys who is going to wait just to wait. If I know where I want to go, I’m going to announce it. I’m just weighing all my options and figuring out what’s best for me. It’s really about taking my time, not rushing anything, weighing my options and seeing what’s best for me. My next move will be my best move, that’s really what I want to do. It’s all about patience for me.
How excited are you to play with Skyy Clark at Montverde next season? Is he recruiting you to Kentucky?
It’s going to be fun, Skyy is a great player and a great point guard. His game speaks for itself. He’s done great things in high school already. We’ve been in talks about Kentucky, he’s telling me more about the program and what he knows about it. It’s just Skyy being Skyy, he’s a great person and one of my close friends. I haven’t gotten to talk to him in person a lot, but I’m excited to do more of that.
What will the college or pro league of your choosing get in you as a player and as a person?
A great person, great player. Someone willing to work hard, learn a lot. I want to learn, I want to develop. Whoever gets me will get a great person, a great player and a hard worker.