Every recruiting season, there are elite prospects linked to specific schools right when they burst onto the national scene and linger as the perceived favorite throughout the process. In some cases (Immanuel Quickley, Harry Giles, etc.) the rumors end up being correct. In others (Kevin Knox, Keion Brooks Jr., etc.), the “longtime favorite” is left at the alter in favor of another program.
For 2020 five-star forward Jalen Johnson, which category he will end up falling in remains to be seen.
Back in July of 2018, Duke received its first pick for Johnson on his Crystal Ball on 247Sports. Ever since, the Blue Devils have seen 12 consecutive picks in their favor for the 6-foot-8 small forward.
If you ask Johnson himself, though, while he sees the pro-Duke buzz, he says no one has any idea what he’s thinking or where he’s leaning.
“Yeah, I see it. I don’t really pay attention to that though,” he said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA “Because no one knows what’s going on in my mind. I know what’s going on, so people can make assumptions on what they think. At the end of the day, I’m the one that knows, and I’m the one that’s going to make the decision.”
In terms of the hurricane of Duke picks that have come over the last year or so, Johnson says he has “no idea” where that came from.
“I have no clue, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t show any favoritism, at least that I think. As far as [social media] posts and stuff, I feel like I show every school an equal amount of the love they deserve. So yeah, I don’t know where that comes from.”
Back in May, the consensus top-ten prospect cut his list down to four schools, leaving just Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, and Wisconsin in the running.
When asked why he went forward with those four programs, Johnson said the recruiting process was getting a little tiring, so he decided to trim the fat and focus on the schools he felt most comfortable with.
“I just felt the most comfortable with those four schools,” he said. “It was kind of getting to be a long process, so I’m just kind of breaking it down with those four schools.”
Back in April, the 6-foot-8 wing said he was hoping to make a decision at or around Peach Jam in July with a personal deadline for himself being the beginning of his senior year.
“I was thinking Peach Jam, but it just depends on when I get that feeling,” Johnson said. “I just want to go into my senior year knowing where I’m going to go, get the weight off my shoulders.”
Now, while he’d still like to get it done during the early signing period, he’s not so certain on a specific date for the official announcement.
“I’m not really sure at this point, I’m just really trying to embrace [the recruiting process] right now and enjoy it, make sure I make the right decision,” he said.
As for Kentucky and his interest in the Wildcats specifically, Johnson said he loves what they have to offer as a program. In terms of their pitch, he said they’re keeping it simple: come to Lexington and be special.
“They keep it real simple. They’re just building a relationship with me, as well,” he said. “They talk to my coaches, my dad. They just stay in contact like all the other schools. It’s the same pitch they had when they first offered me: be a playmaker and have a chance to be special.”
While Johnson was quick to dismiss the rumors of Duke being the heavy favorite, he did say they definitely have a shot to land him. All four of the schools on his list do.
“Yes, [Duke is in it] just as much as the other three schools,” he said. “That’s why I made a final four, they’ve all made me a priority. It’s going to be a really tough decision.”
So what will separate the school of his choosing from the rest? What will be the main determining factor?
“I’ve got to have a strong relationships with the coaches, and I’ve got to feel at home, really,” he said. “It’s got to have that home feeling, that’s going to be huge for me at the end of the day.”
In four games at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week, Johnson is averaging 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game to go with 47% shooting overall, 33% from three, and 81.8% from the free throw line.
His biggest moment of camp this week came this afternoon on this game-winning 3-pointer as time expired against fellow Kentucky targets Cliff Omoruyi and JT Thor:
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) June 14, 2019
You can check out some of his most recent highlights below: