High School Basketball

Perry Central's Johnson rewards WKU's recruiting tenacity

Justin Johnson of Perry County Central has committed to play basketball at Western Kentucky University. (Rivals.com photo)
Justin Johnson of Perry County Central has committed to play basketball at Western Kentucky University. (Rivals.com photo)

Keeping Justin Johnson close to home has been one of Western Kentucky Coach Ray Harper's biggest recruiting priorities over the past couple of years.

Turns out it was a priority for Johnson, too.

The Perry Central basketball star announced his commitment to the Hilltoppers on Monday, just a little while after calling Harper to deliver the good news.

The WKU coach called Johnson back about five minutes later so he could share his commitment with the entire staff over speakerphone.

"They went crazy in there," Johnson said with a laugh.

The exultation was a long time coming.

Harper and his coaching staff targeted Johnson early in his recruitment. The head coach and assistant David Boyden were fixtures at his games and hosted the 6-foot-6 forward on several unofficial visits to Bowling Green.

"They've been with me since day one. I was the No. 1 priority for them," Johnson told the Herald-Leader. "They visit me all the time. They've been to every game in the summers. It's just crazy what a great job they've done recruiting me."

Johnson, who will be one of the top seniors in the state this season and played with the Kentucky Travelers summer team, said his decision came down to WKU and Boston College. Other finalists included Auburn, Providence and Miami (Ohio).

The chance to play in front of his family was the deciding factor in Western's favor.

"They were really happy with the decision," he said. "They knew I was kind of leaning toward Boston College after taking the official visit there, and they were going to support me 100 percent. Then I realized I want to be somewhere my family can come see me play."

Johnson's parents liked Bowling Green, and his older brother is a junior at Morehead State and hopes to enroll in Western Kentucky's physical therapy program after he graduates.

"He's my No. 1 fan," Johnson said.

Perry Central will have its first practice Tuesday, and Johnson said he wanted to get this decision out of the way so he could concentrate fully on a team that has aspirations of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

And if he's playing in Rupp Arena next March, it's a pretty good bet Harper will be there to watch him.

"From day one, they showed me who they are," Johnson said. "They're a really great group of guys — great coaching staff and great players.

"I'm just excited to see what my future holds there and I'm ready to get it started."