WHEELING, W.Va. — Dakari Johnson is coming home.
The 6-foot-11 center — ranked No. 1 at his position in the class of 2013 — announced his commitment to the University of Kentucky on Saturday night.
Johnson is a native of Brooklyn — what he calls his "first home" — but the five-star prospect spent his middle school years in Lexington, where he attended Sayre and played on the high school's varsity team.
Next season, he'll be playing for the Wildcats.
"Lexington, Kentucky — for me, it's like going back home," he said. "Someplace that just feels right for me."
Syracuse and Georgetown were the other two finalists in Johnson's recruitment.
He made the announcement at the Cancer Research Classic, where UK Coach John Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua watched his Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad remain undefeated with an 82-53 victory over nationally ranked Simeon High (Ill.).
Johnson is no stranger to the UK program.
He was teammates with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a freshman at St. Patrick High in New Jersey, and the two players still talk once every couple of weeks.
Johnson called UK signee James Young a "good friend," and said the future Wildcat has been telling him to commit to Kentucky ever since Johnson decided to reclassify in November.
Couple those ties with his "great relationship" with the UK coaching staff and familiarity with Lexington, and the decision to play for the Wildcats was a no-brainer.
Johnson joins what is shaping up to be one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball history.
Calipari now has five five-star recruits — Johnson, Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Marcus Lee — according to the Rivals.com and 24/7 Sports rankings. In-state signee Derek Willis is regarded as a four-star prospect by 24/7.
"I just want to win. I want to win a national championship in high school, college and the NBA," Johnson said. "Coming in with that talent, we shouldn't expect less.
"They're all very good players. If we come in there, do what we're supposed to do, work hard — then we should win a national championship."
ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep ranks Johnson as the No. 12 overall recruit in the class of 2013, and the No. 1 center.
Telep said Johnson has come a long way since two years ago, when he played for Coach Kevin Boyle at St. Patrick. Johnson followed Boyle to Montverde Academy last season and was forced to sit out as a transfer.
Since then, Boyle said Johnson has lost "about 60 pounds."
Telep said his game has benefited.
"He's gotten his body in great shape," the ESPN analyst told the Herald-Leader. "He's expanded his game. He plays his position. He's an anchor guy in the middle. And he can pass, so you can run the offense with him."
Telep mentioned the improvement Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein have shown in their first season at Kentucky and praised the work of Antigua and fellow assistant Kenny Payne in getting the most out of those players.
Add in Anthony Davis, Josh Harrellson, DeMarcus Cousins and practice player Enes Kanter, and the Cats have had an impressive run of big men since Calipari and his coaching staff arrived.
"It's one thing to say you can coach. It's another to have consistent, proven results," Telep said. "And I think guys are starting to go to Kentucky now as good players, and they're getting polished up.
"Willie Cauley-Stein is a different guy (this season). He couldn't even look you in the eye as a high school senior. You can tell that his confidence level is — they've empowered him to be a good player."
Boyle told the Herald-Leader earlier this season that Johnson could start for UK right now, despite the fact that he won't even turn 18 years old until September.
It sounds hyperbolic, but Boyle knows talent. He has coached several NBA players, including Kidd-Gilchrist and last season's Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
The Montverde coach continued to praise his starting center after Saturday's game, and he isn't backing off of his high expectations for Johnson's career.
At Kentucky, and beyond.
"He's a tremendous defensive big player — takes up a lot of space. An excellent passer. His offense keeps getting better. His body keeps getting better," Boyle said.
"He's going to go to (Kentucky). He's going to get close to a double-double. And he's going to be picked in the top 10 after one year."
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com