After Relocating And Reclassifying, Jalen Duren Is Once Again Ready To Level Up

Jalen Duren’s career thus far has been an exercise in leveling up.

At 15, Duren was the youngest player on the USA’s 2019 FIBA Americas U16 team that won gold in Brazil while averaging 10.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. After winning a championship his freshman year and runner up the next season at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, he transferred to prep powerhouse Montverde Academy, where he helped the Eagles win their first National Interscholastic Basketball Conference championship.

He then graduated from high school a year early in order to play for Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers, where he started as a 17 year-old while averaging 12.0 points on 60 percent shooting from the field and 63 percent shooting from the free throw line, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. And after just one season at Memphis, Duren, despite being one of the youngest players in the NCAA, declared for the 2022 NBA Draft.

So after a solo workout for the Trail Blazers, owners of the seventh overall pick of the 2022 Draft, Duren noted that his latest decision to accelerate the timeline of his professional career was not taken lightly. He’s once again ready to make a leap into a more competitive environment.

“I wouldn’t have made this jump if I didn’t feel like I was ready mentally, physically or skill-wise. I mean, where I’m at, I love the challenge, that’s why I decided to go to college early. It was a great challenge, it helped me develop.”

Though he readily admits that he’s nowhere close to a finished product at this point in his career. At 6-10 and a muscular 250 pounds, Duren looks more like an NBA veteran than your average 18 year old, so the more physical nature of the NBA game shouldn’t be much of an issue, though it might not be the advantage that it was in the college ranks. So continuing to develop his skill set, especially as the demands on NBA centers seem to increase every season, will be pivotal.

“I just want to keep expanding my game, keep becoming the player I know I can be,” said Duren. “I’m only 18 right now so I know I’ve got a lot to grow. A lot of room to grow. I’m just going to keep trying to make strides.”

One of those areas he’s making strides is in three-point shooting. Duren took just one three-pointer during his lone season at Memphis (he missed it), a fact he says was at least partially due to the Tigers having “a lot of shooters.” And while you don’t need to be a knockdown three-point shooter to play center in the NBA, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be at least a credible threat from the corners.

“I’m not in trying to force shots or force points or anything, I just let everything come to me,” said Duren. “(Three-point shooting) It’s something I can definitely do, definitely been working on it a lot throughout the summer. I’m capable of it, but like I said, I’m going to keep developing, keep trying to expand my game.”

Duren will find out in a few weeks where he’ll take the next steps in his career. And considering that he’s expected to be drafted within the first 15 picks, his decision to level up once again already feels validated.

"I’m just a guy who wants to win, so I feel like I can fit in any culture, any team because you put me around guys who love the game and love to win, we’re going to be great together,” said Duren. “Where my mental is at now, understand that I’m not trying to come in and take over, all that comes with growth, comes with time, comes with understanding how to get to the next level and develop on it first before I can make my huge run. I sat down with my family, my circle and I definitely feel like this is the right move for me.”