Over the past two weekends, college basketball coaches were permitted to hit the road and get a look at their recruiting targets on the court — the final such “evaluation periods” until July.
Few high school players helped themselves over the past couple of weeks more than Keldon Johnson, a five-star wing player who has visited UK twice since last fall.
Johnson — a 6-foot-6 prospect from South Hill, Va. — is averaging 21.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.4 steals. He’s leading the Nike league in steals and is top 10 in scoring, and his Boo Williams (Va.) squad — with a 7-1 record — is one of the best on the circuit.
This past weekend in Indianapolis, he showed a knack for getting to the basket and was active in transition and on defense. He was also a willing teammate, dishing out 5.5 assists per game and at least four in every contest.
Only Marvin Bagley — the No. 1 recruit in the country — scored as many points as Johnson did during the first weekend of the Nike spring league.
When Johnson got back home after that session of games, his phone was buzzing.
“It was a lot more attention, I can’t lie,” Johnson said. “My phone was blowing off the hook every day.”
Already considered a Top 25 recruit in the 2018 class with reported offers from schools such as Louisville, Indiana and Georgetown (where his brother is on the roster), Johnson has taken his game to another level over the past few months.
He made the move to Huntington (W.Va.) Prep before his junior season — putting him in close proximity to Lexington for those UK visits — and played a national schedule with the perennial prep powerhouse that has featured such players as Andrew Wiggins, Miles Bridges and Thomas Bryant in recent years.
“It was a great move,” Johnson said. “They developed me as a player. They developed my body. They did an awesome job. My jump shot’s got a lot better. Everybody has known me for scoring the basketball. Now, it’s having the playmaking aspect of the game. Making my teammates better, so we could win big games.”
Johnson listed Texas, Maryland, Oregon, UConn and Kansas as some of the schools that have been recruiting him the hardest recently. He also pointed out that West Virginia had really picked up its pursuit of him, especially after that stellar opening weekend to the April evaluation period.
On Sunday, he received scholarship offers from West Virginia and Oklahoma State. On Monday, he got a Florida State offer.
Johnson said he’s being “patient” with his recruitment and didn’t sound like he was in any hurry to speed up the process.
Kentucky could become a more prominent player if the Cats decide to ramp up their pursuit of Johnson, who smiled at the mention of UK’s program and noted that one of the team’s assistant coaches had reached out to him earlier in the week.
“It was very professional,” he said of his visits to Lexington. “Great atmosphere. It was just a great place to be at.”