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Former Roman Catholic star and top basketball recruit Jalen Duren commits to Memphis, reclassifies to 2021

Jalen Duren is rated as the No. 1 high school player in the country, and he's taking his talents to Memphis.

Jalen Duren, the top high school basketball player in the country, hugs his mother Aneisea Hudgins after announcing his commitment to Memphis.
Jalen Duren, the top high school basketball player in the country, hugs his mother Aneisea Hudgins after announcing his commitment to Memphis.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

ELSMERE, Del. — Jalen Duren is classified as a wow player. The kind of player that coaches, teammates, fans and spectators remember the first time they saw him because he sticks out.

Duren, a former Roman Catholic star, announced on Friday night at Team Final headquarters that he’ll be attending the University of Memphis to play for coach Penny Hardaway. He’s also reclassifying to the class of 2021. Duren considered Miami, Kentucky, the NBA G League and Australia’s NBL.

“The goals I want to achieve in this game, [Penny Hardaway] had the same goals for me without me even saying it,” said Duren. “I always wanted to pick a school or a place that was going to help me develop. That was my main thing.”

Duren was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the 247Sports composite class of 2022 rankings. His decision to reclassify comes days after fellow top 2022 recruit Emoni Bates elected to do the same. Bates and Duren were teammates in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League for Team Final, and Bates is also considering Memphis.

“I know how it is with this whole process thing,” Duren said. “I wouldn’t put too much more pressure on him than he probably already has. Definitely if he decides to come play I know it would be amazing for college basketball, but that’s my guy off the court besides basketball, anyway.”

Duren played two seasons at Roman Catholic before transferring to Montverde Academy in Flordia. His Roman Catholic squad was loaded. He played with Penn State forward Seth Lundy, Dayton’s Lynn Greer, Maryland’s Hakim Hart and LSU commit Justice Williams.

Duren still made history by becoming the first freshman in Philadelphia Catholic League history to be named first-team All-Catholic. That’s one of several reasons why his coaches aren’t worried about the uptick in talent.

Duren agreed, too. He used the analogy of needing to leave the room when you’re the smartest guy in it.

“He’s as prepared as you can be,” said former Roman Catholic head coach Matt Griffin. “He’s the most dominant high school player on the planet. Spending another year in high school is really not to his benefit because he’s just going to continue to dominate. He needs to be challenged, and that’s what he wants.”

The comparisons include Chris Webber and Bam Adebayo. Webber is more of the offensive comparison because of Duren’s ability to pass, shoot and versatility. Roman Catholic assistant coach Bill Goebig remembers how Duren would get too passive even because of his respect for teammates.

“He may be the best passer from the post that I’ve seen,” Goebig said. “He is fully capable of dominating any game he plays in.”

The Adebayo comparison comes from his ability to swallow any shot that enters his vicinity. He grew at Montverde playing against top competition and taking advantage of top facilities.

Among his high school accomplishments: PCL championship, 2021 Geico National Championship, and Nike EYBL Peach Jam championship.

“He’s relentless,” Goebig said. “He refuses to lose. He’s a poor loser. I think he hated losing more than he likes winning.”

Duren is hoping to leave for Memphis sometime near the end of the month. Money wasn’t a big factor in his decision, he said. The new NIL rules allow him to be compensated, and opportunities will arise.

Instead, the word development was a key term. Duren repeatedly mentioned the development he’s expecting to get with Hardaway. Memphis produced two first-round picks, James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa, in the 2020 NBA draft. Duren took note.

“I feel like if [Wiseman] was with [Hardaway] that whole season, he would’ve went number one,” Duren said. “The amount of development that I want and need is there. They’ve done it before with guys like my position.”

Family members, friends and coaches were in attendance at Duren’s decision. He walked around the gymnasium and greeted everyone in a black jogging suit before sitting down and quickly getting to the point. He was joined by his mother, big sister and little brother.

Duren credited not just Philly, but Jersey, Delaware and Florida as key points in his development.

“The amount of support that I’ve got here has been tremendous,” Duren said. “It’s been a big help on my journey just knowing that I got this whole area backing me.”