Making the Case: Keldon Johnson
Keldon Johnson, arguably a top-five scorer in high school basketball, will make his college decision on Saturday evening. NC State, Kentucky, Texas and Maryland comprise his final four and the need for each is a near certainty as we address what his commitment would mean for those involved.
This year’s Kentucky roster is full of versatile wings and forwards that should create major nightmares for its opponents. The biggest issue facing this year’s UK team is consistently putting up points within the half-court setting. Add in the fact that Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox, likely their top two scorers this winter, will both opt for the NBA in the spring and it is clear that the need for more polished scorers is high on John Calipari’s list this recruiting cycle. Johnson may exhaust such needs for the Wildcats as he was a top-10 scorer on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer and has the takeover abilities that Calipari has become known for having on each of his better teams in Lexington. Kentucky is without a true small forward on its roster this year, a capacity that Johnson would fill immediately next season, making his value that much greater for the Wildcats, especially if they miss on RJ Barrett this evening.
The Terps have made up the most ground primarily because of the summer hiring of assistant coach Kevin Broadus, a one-time Georgetown assistant that successfully recruited Kaleb Johnson, the older brother of the five-star wing. The Terps already sit with three top-75 prospects this fall but none can put the ball through the basket like Johnson. Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala solidify their backcourt but with the looming departures of Jared Nickens to graduation and Justin Jackson to the NBA, Maryland would love to add another versatile perimeter prospect this fall. Does it desperately need Johnson? No, but he would enhance the chances of getting Mark Turgeon to his first Final Four in the years ahead.
Kevin Keatts has had no issues finding success on the recruiting trail this fall as he has put together an upper echelon recruiting class within the ACC and a top-25 group nationally. Holding the signatures of four Rivals150 prospects, the second-most nationally, Johnson’s commitment would come as a giant win for NC State. The need is not as a great compared with others, seeing that NC State has already secured versatile wings Jericole Hellems and Saddiq Bey. However, by Keatts showing that he can defeat well-respected head coaches Mark Turgeon, John Calipari and Shaka Smart for a prospect that they deeply desire, it would be a monumental victory for the first-year NC State boss.
Texas has invested the most in the recruitment of Johnson. The 6-foot-6 wing was just a budding freshman at Park View High School when VCU head coach Shaka Smart and assistant coach Mike Morrell went in pursuing the local prospect. Since then, the duo has gone onto Texas but kept their relationships intact in Virginia, which helped them land top-50 2017 guard Matt Coleman last year. Could they do it again? For the past year or so, UT was the heavy favorite for his commitment, but thanks to his breakout campaign this summer on the travel circuit, the competition for his signature grew even more heated. While the Longhorns need more shooting, an aspect of the game that Johnson is still improving, UT is hoping to secure a go-to scorer.