NC State’s top recruit opts to stay in the NBA draft

Future NC State guard Jalen Lecque at the John Wall Holiday Invitational

Brewster Academy guard Jalen Lecque talks about adjusting to Brewster, and his future NC State teammates coming to see him play at the John Wall Holiday Invitational.
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Brewster Academy guard Jalen Lecque talks about adjusting to Brewster, and his future NC State teammates coming to see him play at the John Wall Holiday Invitational.

Updated: 6:43 p.m. Wednesday with Lecque’s official announcement

Jalen Lecque will always have the John Wall Invitational.

Lecque, once N.C. State’s top recruit, put on a show at the annual prep basketball tournament at Broughton High in December. Instead of coming back to Raleigh to play for the Wolfpack next season, Lecque announced on Wednesday his decision to stay in the NBA draft.

Wednesday was the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft. Lecque is continuing on his unique path to the pros.

“I will always remain a NC State fan,” Lecque wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

A fifth-year prep player from Teaneck, N.J., Lecque found a way around the NBA’s “one and done” rule. He is eligible for the draft because he will turn 19 during the same calendar year as the draft (his birthday is June 13) and he is at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class.

Recruits have been prevented from going directly from a four-year high school to the NBA since 2006, when the — as it’s popularly known — “one and done” rule was put in place by the NBA and the players’ association.

The athletic combo guard had signed with N.C. State in November and was the main attraction with Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) at the John Wall Invitational in December.

A four-star recruit, he was ranked No. 40 in the class by 247Sports. He averaged 12.6 points and 4.6 assists per game and led Brewster to the National Prep Championship.

Lecque declared for the draft in April and received an invitation to the NBA combine in Chicago earlier this month. Lecque went through the preliminary drills and measurement process (official height: 6-4.25, official weight: 185.2 pounds) at the combine. His 43-inch vertical leap was the best at the combine.

After the initial testing, Lecque did not participate in the scrimmages at the combine. A projected second-round pick, Lecque’s elite athleticism is why he is expected to be drafted on June 20.

Brewster coach Jason Smith raved about Lecque’s athletic ability in December at the John Wall Invitational. Smith also coached Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell at Brewster.

“(Jalen) would be a freak in the NBA with his athleticism,” Smith said then. “Donovan is considered a high-level athlete in the NBA and Jalen is on a whole different level.”

For Lecque, the NBA is the pursuit of a dream.

“Being in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, experiencing how to play basketball at the highest level. Being able to play against the best athletes, and learn from the best minds of the game basketball (sic),” Lecque wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

For N.C. State, it’s a missed chance but not an unexpected development.

Coach Kevin Keatts has already lined up a full roster for the 2019-20 season. The return of guard Markell Johnson, who also went through the draft process, gives Keatts six of his top seven scorers back from last season.

Keatts misses out on Lecque but does add freshman guard Dereon Seabron and three other new players for next season.

“I want to wish Jalen all the best as he pursues his dream of playing in the league,” Keatts said in a statement released by the school. “I enjoyed getting to know both Jalen and his family during the recruitment process, they are wonderful people and I wish them happiness and success in the future.”

N.C. State went 24-12 last season, Keatts’ second, and won two games in the NIT. With the return of the bulk of its roster, and the heavy personnel losses by other ACC programs, the Wolfpack will have a chance to improve on its 9-9 ACC finish and get back to the NCAA tournament for the second time under Keatts.

Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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