AJ Johnson, the best high school basketball prospect available, has committed to Texas, he told ESPN Monday.
Johnson, ESPN’s No. 25 player in the high school class of 2023, was among the top 40 players announced for where he will play next season besides. Bronnie Jameswhich ranks 34th.
Johnson selected Texas over offers from Louisville, LSU, NC State, Kansas, Tennessee, USC and G League Ignite, among others.
“I chose the college route because I want to win a national title before I get to the next level,” said Johnson. “The exposure I will receive while playing games on TV all the time will help my brand in general.”
A late bloomer who entered the conversation as a five-star prospect only this past summer after a solid showing on the popular Adidas circuit, Johnson took advantage of his first invitation to USA Basketball camp in October to make a claim for consideration as the best. Potential long-term members of the Class of 2023.
“During the pandemic, I’ve grown about 5-6 inches,” Johnson said. “I worked on my body and my sport got to work. I kept working on my game and God was looking forward to my growth spurt.”
At 6-foot-6, Johnson is an excellent size for a guard, displaying impressive fluidity leading to smooth wavering motions with long strides and showing creativity as a finisher. He attacks the basket with his head looking to find teammates from the live dribbling, and shows promise as an outside shooter off the dribble with his feet up, giving him a good framework to build as a senior guard who can tackle, pass, shoot and excel on the open court. He is not yet 18 years old, which makes him one of the young prospects in his class.
Johnson began the season at Donda Academy but chose to leave for nearby SoCal Academy after anti-Semitic remarks made by Donda’s founder, Ye—the artist formerly known as Kanye West—caused the school to deny several notable high school championships.
“Donda was amazing,” Johnson said. “I was upset that I had to leave, but I understood why. We all created a bond there and felt like we weren’t going there for Kanye, but to actually play basketball. It was all crazy — it was a once in a lifetime experience, for sure.”
Johnson’s commitment gives Texas the eighth-ranked recruit in 2023, having previously ranked as a top 10 prospect. Ron Holland From Duncanville just outside of Dallas.
With a projected top 10 draft pick Dillon Mitchell Most likely to the NBA, and six seniors in their rotation, four of whom are ineligible at the end of this season, the Longhorns still have work to do to fill out their roster for next year and are expected to fall into the NCAA transfer gate.
Texas got off to a strong start, 3-0, including shooting 93-74 from then-no. 2 ranked Gonzaga last week. New assistant coach Bob Donnewald has revamped the Longhorns’ offense, tweaking Chris Beard’s traditional movement in favor of a more modern wide-open drive-and-kick attack, playing at the fastest tempo of Beard’s career to date, including the highest-ever attempted 3-pointer . The Longhorns are ranked 77th in average length of possession, according to KenPom data, after ranking 278th and 268th in Beard’s previous two seasons at Texas and Texas Tech, while still grinding opponents to the point of stopping and having the No. 1 defense in the country.
Johnson says that played an important role in his decision.
“The revamped Texas style was everything,” said Johnson. “The pitch that Coach Baird and Coach Terry gave me was playing fast paced and letting their guards swing. Losing them 2-3 guards the next year was massive too, so I could come in and play and make an impact right away.”
Jonathan Giffoni is an NBA draft expert and founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a proprietary scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA, and international teams.
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