Keldon Johnson is one of the top high school basketball players in the country, the star prospect on this season’s loaded Oak Hill Academy squad, and a future Kentucky Wildcat.
Almost always these days, a young recruit of that caliber is already cultivating a following on social media. Johnson, who doesn’t maintain a Twitter account, is an exception.
“I don’t really like it,” he said over the weekend at the Marshall County Hoop Fest. “I think Twitter just comes with a lot of drama and stuff like that. I don’t really like to see that — especially the negativity. I don’t really need negativity at this point in my life. I just need all positive people around me.
“I just try to stay away from Twitter and social media altogether, as best as possible.”
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That’s a rare (though somewhat refreshing) take by Johnson, who acknowledged that pretty much every other five-star basketball recruit in the country is already on Twitter and building an audience.
“I don’t really mind,” he said. “Twitter’s not for everybody. Social media, in general, is not for everybody. I feel like it’s not really that much for me. I don’t really have to be putting my business out like that.”
Johnson — a 6-foot-6 wing who signed with UK last month — said he also doesn’t need the extra attention that comes with social media. His appearance at the Hoop Fest proved he doesn’t need to be on Twitter to get noticed by the fans.
In two days spent in Marshall County, the Virginia native estimated that he signed 400-500 autographs and posed for 300 more photographs with fans. He said this as more kids were huddled around, hoping to get a signature from the future Cat.
“I want to make everybody happy,” he said. “If I have to sit there for an hour or two signing autographs, that’s what I’ll do.”
That will prepare him for his time in Lexington next season. His shunning of social media won’t be a bad thing, either.
It’s not uncommon to see college athletes pop off about playing time, engage in unseemly back-and-forths with fans, and air other grievances on Twitter, a site that has been known to cause headaches for coaches and distractions for teams.
“I don’t really need to know what people think,” Johnson said. “I’m going to Kentucky to make my family happy and Coach Cal happy and win a national championship. That’s the only thing I got in mind. I don’t really need to know what the outsiders think.”
“I love watching him play just because of how hard he plays.”
That’s what 247Sports director of recruiting Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader about UK signee Keldon Johnson recently, and the future Wildcat’s competitive attitude was on display again at the Marshall County Hoop Fest over the weekend.
In his game Friday night — Oak Hill’s 84-63 victory over Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) — things weren’t necessarily going Johnson’s way. He struggled from the floor — just 6-for-17 on field goals — but he didn’t get his head down and he most certainly didn’t give up.
One play best summed up that evening’s performance and Johnson’s overall approach.
Johnson drove the lane and put up an off-target floater over two defenders. He then grabbed the rebound and missed another contested shot. He tipped that rebound back to himself, took a dribble and went back up again with defenders surrounding him. Johnson missed that shot, too, but he drew the foul and two free throws.
In the 10-second sequence, four Hamilton Heights players fought Johnson for rebounds and all five were in the paint, but they couldn’t keep him away from the ball.
“He’s just a horse inside,” Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith said. “He’s big and strong and just bangs in there. … Hardest-working kid we got, in practice and in games. He just wants to win.”
No hard feelings?
One of the many twists in Bol’s recruiting journey happened over the summer, when he was cut from John Calipari’s USA Basketball U19 squad — even as UK was thought by many to be the favorite for his commitment at the time.
Bol shed more light on the Team USA cut over the weekend, acknowledging his surprise at being axed from training camp but reiterating that there were no hard feelings toward Calipari and the cut didn’t factor into his final decision.
“I wasn’t really mad about it,” Bol said. “Everyone thinks I’m mad about it, but I wasn’t mad.”
Bol — a 7-foot-3 power forward now at Findlay Prep (Nev.) — said he could have waited around for an explanation for Calipari on the day of the cuts, but he chose not to.
“At that point, I was like, ‘It’s not gonna change,’ so I just left,” he said.
Bol said he knew the cuts were made by a USA Basketball committee — the decision was not solely Calipari’s to make — but that he still wonders why he was cut. The topic didn’t come up on his official visit to UK in October.
“We never talked about it, actually,” Bol said. “I feel like he kind of avoided that whole situation, (and) I just forgot about it.”
The Herald-Leader talked to a USA Basketball official about the process for such cuts earlier this fall. You can read that story here.
James Wiseman is, simply put, one of the best long-term basketball prospects in the high school game. He’s still just a junior, but it won’t be a surprise to see his name at the very top of NBA Draft boards in the future.
The 6-11 power forward is now at Memphis East (Tenn.) and coached by Penny Hardaway, who knows a thing or two about NBA-caliber talent.
Hardaway was asked over the weekend if he could compare Wiseman to any other players he’s seen in the past.
“He has a very high ceiling,” he said. “He has a little bit of Chris Bosh in him. And someone said an old-school, kind of Sam Perkins game. Sam was really nice at North Carolina and when he first came in the league. Those are two guys that — to be mentioning their names are high praise.”
Perkins was a first-team All-American and won a national championship for the Tar Heels before being selected with the No. 4 pick in the 1984 draft and going on to play 17 seasons in the NBA.
Hardaway was also asked if Wiseman even knows who Perkins is.
“He does not,” Penny replied. “He does not know who Sam Perkins is. But one thing he will do, he will study Sam Perkins if you tell him. He’s that type of kid.”
Kentucky is the early favorite for Wiseman, who’s ranked by Scout.com and ESPN as the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2019.