Texas adds No. 25 prospect AJ Johnson to recruiting class
AJ Johnson, the top prospect in high school basketball, has committed to it Texashe told ESPN on Monday.
Johnson, ESPN’s No. 25 player in the high school class of 2023, was the only 40 prospect to announce where he will play next season. Bronny Jameswhich ranks 34th.
Johnson chose 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,” Johnson said. “The exposure that I’ll be getting on TV all the time will help my overall brand.”
A late bloomer who entered the conversation as a five-star prospect just last summer after a strong performance on the adidas circuit, Johnson used his first invite to USA Basketball’s October camp to make a case for consideration as a top long-term prospect class of 2023
“During the pandemic, I grew about 5-6 inches,” Johnson said. “I worked on my body and my athleticism came through. I continued to work on my game and God watched the growth spurt.”
At 6-foot-6, Johnson has excellent size for a point guard, showing remarkable fluidity playing smooth hesitation moves with long strides and demonstrating creativity as a finisher. He attacks the basket with his head up looking for teammates off the dribble live, and shows promise as an outside shooter off the dribble and with his feet set, giving him a good frame to build a big guard who can handle, pass, shoot and excel in the open court. He hasn’t turned 18 yet, making him one of the younger prospects in his class.
Johnson started the season at Donda Academy, but decided to go to nearby SoCal Academy after anti-Semitic statements made by Donda’s founder, Ye — the artist formerly known as Kanye West — led to the school being kicked out of several high school tournaments.
“Donda was cool,” Johnson said. “I was upset that I had to go, but I understood why. We all built a bond there and felt like we didn’t go there for Kanye, but to actually play basketball. Going through all that was crazy — it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure.”
Johnson’s commitment gives Texas the No. 8-ranked 2023 recruiting class after previously nabbing a top-10 prospect Ron Holland from Duncanville outside of Dallas.
With a projected top-10 draft pick as a freshman Dillon Mitchell likely departure 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, most of which is expected to come through the NCAA transfer portal.
Texas got off to a strong 3-0 start, including shellacking then-No. 93-74. 2 ranked Gonzaga last week. Newly hired assistant coach Bob Donewald rebuilt the Longhorns’ offense, tweaking Chris Beard’s traditional offense in favor of a more modern wide-open drive-and-kick offense, playing at the fastest pace of Beard’s career to date, including his highest-ever 3-point attempt rate. The Longhorns rank 77th in average length of possession, according to KenPom data, after ranking 278th and 268th in Beard’s two previous seasons at Texas and Texas Tech, while still shutting down opponents and owning the No. 1 defense in to the country.
Johnson says that played a significant role in his decision.
“Renovated Texas style was everything,” Johnson said. “Coach Beard and Coach Terry’s whole backfield for me played up-tempo and fast and let their backs swing. They lost 2-3 backs next year was also huge, so I can come in and play and make an impact right away.”
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.
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