The Atlanta Hawks selected Jalen Johnson from Duke with the 20th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday and Auburn’s Sharife Cooper with the 48th overall selection.
Johnson, a 6’9 forward, appeared in 13 games last season (eight starts) during his freshman season at Duke, averaging 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 21.4 minutes (.523 FG%, .444 3FG%, .632 FT%).
“Jalen is an extremely talented player. He has great size and great ball skills, rebounds and defends,” said Hawks President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Travis Schlenk. “We’re excited to add a player of his talent level to the roster.”
In his collegiate debut on Nov. 28 vs. Coppin State, Johnson tallied 19 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in 35 minutes (8-8 FGs, 1-1 3FGs, 2-2 FTs). On Jan. 19 at Pitt, he put in 24 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and two steals in 33 minutes (8-15 FGs, 1-1 3FGs, 7-10 FTs). In a Jan. 26 contest against Georgia Tech, Johnson scored 18 points on 7-11 FGs and 4-6 FTs in 24 minutes, adding six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks.
Johnson began his high school career at Sun Prairie High School (WI), where he put in 18.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks, leading the Cardinals to a 25-2 mark and an appearance in the state semifinals. He spent his final two seasons at Nicolet High School (WI), averaging 24.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a senior. He is a native of Milwaukee, WI.
The 6’1 Cooper appeared in 12 games as a freshman last season at Auburn and averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 33.1 minutes. He scored in double figures in all 12 contests, including a career-best 28 points twice (Jan. 13 at Georgia and Jan. 26 vs. Missouri). He is one of two NCAA Division I freshman in the last 30 years (joining Trae Young) to average 20 points and 8 assists per game.
“We had (Sharife) ranked much higher than 48. We got pretty excited when we saw him there late,” Schlenk said. “A really, really good playmaker. He’s good with the ball in his hands, a very good passer. He pushes tempo and has the ability to get to the foul line. We’re excited to add him to our program as well.”
Cooper played his high school ball at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, where he led the team to the first state title in school history as a junior in 2018-19 and has his jersey retired. He is a former Mr. Georgia Basketball and Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. He was born in Newark, NJ before moving to the Atlanta area. His sister, Te’a, plays for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.