One of the top scorers on the Nike travel circuit this summer, five-star wing Keldon Johnson has been clear about his interest in the University of Kentucky.
Johnson — a 6-foot-6 prospect from South Hill, Va. — would love a scholarship offer from Coach John Calipari and the Wildcats.
He also understands such offers are a rarity, and he doesn’t plan on throwing out any ultimatums on when UK would have to make that move to remain a serious player in his recruitment.
“I don’t want to say they have a time period,” Johnson told the Herald-Leader. “Whenever it happens, it happens. I’m not going to give them a time period that they have to offer me, because, I mean, it’s Kentucky.”
Johnson spent his junior season at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep — less than a two-hour drive from Lexington — and he made that trip a couple of times during the school year to check out UK’s campus and get to know the coaching staff.
Kentucky’s assistant coaches have been in regular contact with Johnson since the start of the spring — he was named MVP of the first Nike league session back in April — and Calipari watched him play at Nike’s Peach Jam event in South Carolina last week.
“They’ve been contacting me pretty often — all of the coaches,” Johnson said. “We’re just waiting to see what happens. … I can’t really tell you (about an offer), but hopefully it comes, and I would be excited when it comes. I’ll be ready.”
Johnson is also excited about the next move in his high school career.
After one season at Huntington Prep, he decided to transfer to another national prep powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy (Va.), for his senior year. Johnson will be one of several five-star newcomers for the Warriors, who should once again be one of the top high school teams in the country while playing a national schedule that will include a few games in the state of Kentucky.
“I don’t want to just be good. I want to be great,” Johnson said. “Being around basketball all day, and being around legendary coaches like Coach (Steve) Smith — it’s the recipe to get to the next level.”
The “next level” he’s speaking of is the NBA — and Johnson has the talent to make it that far — but the next step will be college basketball, and UK is one of many top programs showing interest in his recruitment.
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 23 overall prospect in the 2018 class, Johnson is a versatile, athletic and active wing who thrives at getting to the basket and is a terrific rebounder for a perimeter player.
He averaged 20.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during the Nike regular season and led his Boo Williams (Va.) travel team to the semifinals of last weekend’s Peach Jam.
Johnson named Texas, Maryland, Oregon, UCLA, North Carolina State, Georgetown, Memphis, Virginia Tech and Virginia as other schools that are pursuing him hard. The Longhorns have been considered a possible leader for his commitment — and Johnson flashed a smile when asked about Coach Shaka Smart, “a hardworking and honest man,” he called him — but said his recruitment had “evened out” in recent weeks and maintained that no one school is out front.
Johnson also said he doesn’t have a timetable for his college decision. That’s good news for Kentucky as it continues to evaluate him for a possible scholarship offer.
“I’m just looking to take my time, take a couple of visits and go from there,” he said. “I’m not in a hurry to make a decision at all.”