Editor’s Note: This piece from Jack Pilgrim originally ran after Johnny Juzang announced he would make the leap into the 2019 class. Now that he’s a Cat, allow KSR’s insider the chance to break down Juzang’s game, his background and how he will fit at Kentucky.
This evening, 2020 five-star wing Johnny Juzang announced he would be making a jump to the class of 2019, with many recruiting analysts submitting predictions in favor of the Wildcats not long after.
The 6-foot-7 prospect out of Studio City, CA is set to officially visit Kentucky starting on Monday, April 29, and there are rumblings that the Wildcats could receive a commitment on or soon after the trip.
So what do we need to know about Juzang and the likelihood that he ends up in Lexington next season?
Let’s take a look.
Who is Johnny Juzang?
In terms of basic information and measurables, Juzang is a 6-foot-7, 210-pound shooting guard/small forward out of Studio City, CA. Holding offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Virginia, UCLA, and USC, among others, Juzang is considered a consensus top-25 prospect in the class of 2020. ESPN lists him as the No. 19 overall prospect in the class, while Rivals has him at No. 22 and 247 Sports lists him at No. 24 overall.
On the offensive end, Juzang is one of the most gifted shooters in all of high school basketball. He’s got fluid mechanics, muscle memory down to a science, midrange, can hit shots from all three levels, catch-and-shoot, off the dribble, etc. With a nickname of “J-Silk,” it’s no surprise that he’s an incredibly smooth player. Last season for Harvard Westlake, Juzang averaged 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, including a 35% clip from three. Solid, but not the best. Looking back to his time with the Compton Magic on the Adidas Gauntlet last season, however, the Kentucky target shot an impressive 43.4% from three, which is the number most believe closely shows his true shooting abilities.
Some recruiting analysts are comparing his game to that of a 6-foot-7 version of Doron Lamb, which would certainly provide a massive boost to Kentucky’s 3-point shooting next season.
Defensively, Juzang’s length is there, but he needs to improve on his lateral mobility and quickness to stay in front of smaller, faster guards. Kentucky is recruiting him to play at the two and three next season, so that will need to improve over time.
From a training perspective, Juzang has seen a spike in development over the last year or so not just with his basketball skillset, but his body. Over the course of his junior season, the forward prospect has put on 20 pounds of muscle, with those close to him calling him a “gym rat” who now lives in the weight room. He’s always been a gifted shooter, but now, he’s building up the strength necessary to be a force when driving the paint and finding separation against elite defenders. He’s also become a phenomenal rebounder, certainly a plus.
With Kentucky losing Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Jemarl Baker on the perimeter, Juzang would be the perfect addition to rotate in with Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, and Immanuel Quickley, especially from a shooting perspective. Maxey is considered arguably the best shooter in the class of 2019, and Juzang has long been considered one of the best in the class of 2020. Bringing both of them in at the same time will bring back memories of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb in the 2010-11 backcourt.
This evening, Juzang announced to the world that he would be making the jump to the class of 2019, a move that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
“First off, I want to thank everyone who’s helped me and been there for me up to this point,” he said. “I’ve had an amazing experience in high school, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’d like to thank Harvard Westlake: the coaches, the trainers, the teachers, and the staff for making my 3 years so special. I also want to thank Compton Magic for all they’ve done for me in my journey thus far. And of course, I want to say thank you to my family and friends who support me no matter what. With that being said, I will be reclassifying to the class of 2019 and attending college this fall.”
There was a quiet buzz about it being a possibility over the last several months, but they seriously grew louder over the last week or so. Once Kentucky traveled out to California and offered him a scholarship face-to-face, the buzz soon became that not only is it likely that he made the jump to 2019, it would be a shock if he didn’t.
Now that he has shared the news with the world, it’s also important to factor in that Harvard Westlake, Juzang’s high school, does not have an early graduation program for students, so he will need to get his final academic credits in order elsewhere. His family believes they have a path in place that should make this transition relatively easy.
Already 18 years old, Juzang is both physically and mentally ready to make the jump. Tonight, he made that official.
Also in his reclassification announcement, Juzang said that he would be making a decision “in the next few weeks,” and I think that might even be generous.
Immediately after his in-home visit concluded with Kentucky, rumors leaked out that the Wildcats had done enough to jump out in front as the favorite to land the wing prospect. They offered him a scholarship for both 2019 and 2020, telling him that he’d be welcome whenever he wanted to end up in Lexington.
That being said, they pushed for Juzang to join Kentucky’s class of 2019 and pointed out his specific role on the roster for next season. From there, they convinced him to take an official visit to Lexington starting on April 29, where sources tell KSR that the staff believes they can seal the deal on a commitment before he leaves campus. If not, the expectation is that an announcement comes not long after that.
Outside of Kentucky, Juzang holds offers from Kansas, Virginia, Oregon, USC, Washington, California, and Arizona State, among others. Though Kentucky is still considered the favorite, Virginia is seen as the team running No. 2 in the race, with Villanova (who doesn’t have a confirmed offer) also making a recent push.
Before John Calipari and Joel Justus visited and offered on April 19, Juzang also visited Virginia last October and Kansas in February of 2018.
As of right now, Kentucky holds 83% of all predictions on 247 Sports, including picks from recruiting insiders Evan Daniels, Jerry Meyer, and Andrew Slater, three of the best in the business.
In fact, the only person who doesn’t predict Kentucky to land Juzang is 247’s Dain Ervin, who made a prediction in favor of Stanford back in October of 2018. Since then, Kentucky, Virginia, and Villanova have all surpassed the Cardinal on his list, and I would be shocked if they are even in the running at this point.
Not only do I believe Kentucky lands the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter out of Studio City, CA, I believe they get it done during (or not long after) his official visit to Lexington next week.
And the documentary he released last week:
Come on down.