Jalen Johnson is the No. 4 overall player, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, and a consensus top-10 prospect in the Class of 2020.
Johnson is a 6-8 forward from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one of the Kentucky Wildcats’ top targets in 2020. He recently cut his list to the Duke Blue Devils, Wisconsin Badgers, Arizona Wildcats, and of course, Kentucky.
The only problem: he’s widely expected to pick Duke.
The Blue Devils lead all schools in both the 247Sports Crystal Ball (93%), as well as the Rivals Future Cast (100%), including picks from national recruiting experts Eric Bossi, Evan Daniels, Corey Evans, Jerry Meyer, and Andrew Slater.
However, Johnson said not so fast, as he explained that there is no current favorite in his recruitment.
“I see it. I don’t really pay attention to that though,” Johnson told the Herald Leader. “Because no one knows what’s going on in my mind. I know what’s going on. People can make assumptions on what they think. But, at the end of the day, I’m the one that knows, and I’m the one that’s going to make the decision.”
Where did all the Duke buzz come from then? Johnson says he has no idea.
“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 the equal amount of love. … So I don’t know where that came from.”
While this seems more like a situation where the kid just wants to keep everyone on their toes, Johnson did say something that could be good for the Cats.
He originally planned to make his college decision sometime around the Nike Peach Jam event in mid-July, but on Thursday, Johnson wasn’t ready to commit to that time frame just yet.
Even better for Kentucky is that, earlier this spring, Johnson called UK his “dream school” growing up. In addition, he’s visited Lexington for the past two Big Blue Madness events, and he stays in regular contact with the Kentucky coaching staff. Kentucky assistants Kenny Payne and Joel Justus were also courtside for his game on Thursday.
“They keep it real simple. They’re just building a relationship with me. Talk to my coaches, my dad. They 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.”
Johnson will be special, which is why the Cats are still pushing for him despite all the Duke buzz. He’ll probably end up with the Blue Devils — it just makes too much sense — but the longer this plays out, the better the chances for UK.
And who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us all like another 6-8 forward did a couple of seasons ago.