HYATTSVILLE, MD — Let’s just get right to the point here.
At No. 5 overall in the class of 2020, Jalen Johnson is probably underrated on our HoopSeen.com rankings.
I know, I know. That sounds crazy. Because it is.
It is crazy that he’s not number one overall after his dominant performance for Nicolet (WI) in a 62-60 win over St. Johns (DC). Johnson scored 28 points (9-19 FG, 2-5 from 3, 8-11 FT), grabbed 15 rebounds, handed out eight assists and had a couple of steals here at the ARS Rescue Rooter Washington DC HoopsFest. He also had 10 turnovers.
It is crazy that he’s No. 5 overall because the other four guys ahead of him - Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Jalen Green and Brandon Boston - are very good.
It is crazy because of the amount of depth in the class at the very top.
It is crazy because the list could change quite a bit in terms of order over the next couple of years.
That’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing.
Competitiveness breeds growth.
Johnson knows it. He welcomes it. The Wisconsin native talked about this very topic after his dazzling showing here in the nation’s capital.
Is Johnson the top dog in the class of 2020?
“I am the best player in the nation,” Johnson said after his outstanding performance on Saturday afternoon.. “That is my opinion and I am going to play like it.”
Jalen Johnson talks about the route to No. 1 on the 2020 class. Great topic of discussion here at the @ARSRescueRooter Washington DC @HoopfestUSA. He went for 28 pts, 15 rebs, 8 asts in a great win over St Johns. pic.twitter.com/MMj4owPlfp— Justin Young (@JustinDYoung) December 8, 2018
He certainly made his case on Saturday. He’s bigger since the last time we saw him. His versatility and skill set still remains high. Johnson has all of the tools in the world to be a great one not just in college but long-term and at the next couple of levels.
But, so are the other guys currently ranked ahead of him.
And that’s why the next year and a half will be so much fun to watch play out.
“I’m never going to be satirized if I’m number one or number two hundred,” Johnson said. “I’m never going to be satisfied until I get to where I want to get. So, that’s why I just have to keep getting better every day That’s my biggest goal right now.”
Johnson’s recruitment already has a blue blood flavor to it. The five-star prospect has taken official visits to Arizona, Duke and UCLA. The in-state schools - Wisconsin and Marquette - are naturally in place to recruit him until the very end. Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann was in D.C. to see Johnson play on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky, Georgetown and Louisville are in the picture too, Johnson said.
On Duke: “They are saying I can come in and be a huge impact right away,” Johnson said of Duke’s pitch. “They made me a priority since my freshman year of high school. They keep preaching to me about getting better every day.
On Arizona: “It was nice down there. Coach (Sean) Miller keeps preaching about how I can come there and push the ball. I could play the one through the four for them. It is kind of basically the same thing as Duke.”
On UCLA: “LA is a big branding city. That’s what they are saying. I can build my brand out there. It’s basically the same thing as the other schools. I can get out in nine months, that’s basically what they’ve said.”
Johnson was on Kentucky’s campus for Big Blue Madness, too. “That was a crazy atmosphere. I loved it down there,” he said.
There is one other school that he’d like to take a visit to - Georgetown. He said he wants to “get down there for sure” on an unofficial visit.
Johnson also said he’d like to make a decision this time next year.
In the meantime, there are a lot of things to consider. Where can he grow in nine months before he leaves for the NBA Draft? Or will a draw to stay close to home in his last go-round as a non-pro athlete? Staying home is certainly an option he’s considering.
“It’d be big. My fan base down there would be huge. It is something that is on the back of my mind. It is something that I’d have to talk about with my family,” Johnson said. “It could be real crazy down there.”
In the end, Johnson said he has the support of those he loves and trusts.
“My family and friends just want what’s best for me,” Johnson said. “The fact that these schools are lifetime scholarships to come back and get my degree are big for me and my family.”