Friday, September 6, 2013
ESPN 100 Jaylen Johnson picks Louisville
By Paul Biancardi
Rick Pitino, who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, got an early wake-up call on Friday. ESPN 100 forward Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti) called Pitino before school this morning with special message.
"I wanted to say congratulations and tell him I was coming to Louisville," Johnson said. "Louisville is the perfect fit for me." Johnson is the No. 15 power forward and 62nd-ranked player in the Class of 2014.
ESPN 100 Jaylen Johnson is the No. 1 prospect in the state of Michigan and the No. 15-ranked power forward in the nation.
Why he committed: “I felt Louisville made me a priority. The entire coaching staff was at my games in Las Vegas,” Johnson said. "I want to improve my game and have a chance to play in the NBA. I know Coach Pitino is hard and will make me a better player. He is a great teacher."
What he brings: An ultra-athletic, long forward who runs the floor, scores the ball with natural instincts and blocks shots with timing. Johnson has the skill and finesse to make scoring plays inside the paint and facing the basket. He possesses eye-opening length and when he scores inside, it’s because of his natural instincts and soft touch. He can finish a drop-off pass with either hand and on the next possession, he can make a drive from the 3-point line and top it off with a dunk. When his skills improve and he learns how to utilize his frame in the post, he will blossom. Potential is a word often applied to Johnson, as he was only 16 this summer, which is young for a rising senior. Johnson is raw in terms of basketball IQ and experience, and his body could put on plenty of muscle.
How he fits: Louisville has a roster full of excellent perimeter players; the need going forward will be in the frontcourt. Johnson brings the ability to move to different spots on the floor and can score and defend. When the Cardinals go into their full-court press, Johnson can be on the ball and harassing the in-bounder with his enormous wing span and height. Or he can be at the back line protecting the rim, allowing his teammates to gamble and go for steals and press the ball handlers. Offensively, his jumper is solid to 17 feet, and in any ball-screen situation he can roll to the rim and finish or pop to the mid-range for a jumper.
Who he remind us of: Earl Clark, who was a standout for Rick Pitino at Louisville and helped them earn a No. 1 ranking in the 2008-2009 season. Johnson has the skill, athletic ability and versatility at the same stage as Clark with much room to grow and develop. Clark went on to be the 14th pick in the 2009 NBA draft by Phoenix.
How the class is shaping up: Johnson joins power guard JaQuan Lyle and long athletic wing Shaqquan Aaron to give the Cardinals three ESPN 100 commitments. All possess outstanding size and skill at their respective positions. In Johnson, Louisville has a versatile forward with offensive and defensive skills. The Cardinals need more of a presence in their front line if they want to make a run for another national championship. Louisville certainly has talent on the perimeter, but Montrezl Harrell will be the only player with any real experience in the frontcourt, so expect to see the Cardinals looking for two more big men. The hit Cardinals’ wish list includes Trey Lyles, Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner and Chinanu Onuaku.