Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon aren’t the only elite 2013 players drawing John Calipari’s interest.
The Kentucky coach was at Montverde (Fla.) Academy over the weekend to watch 6-foot-11 big man Dakari Johson, Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Johnson, a Brooklyn native who spent his middle school years at Sayre’s Middle School in Lexington, reclassifed to 2013 from 2014 and is considering Kentucky, Georgetown, Syracuse, Kansas, Florida, Ohio State and Missouri.
Georgetown and Missouri, which recently offered Johnson, watched Johnson on Wednesday and Florida and Ohio State have also been in recently, Roberts reported. Syracuse has also been in this fall.
“He’s ready to start right now at any place in the country,” Kevin Boyle, Johnson’s current coach at Montverde and his former coach at Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. “Not putting down any of those schools, but I think if he was at any of those six schools I mentioned he would start now for them.”
Through two blowout victories, Johnson is averaging 22 points and 14 rebounds.
“He doesn’t jump great,” Boyle said. “He’s not super explosive. But he’s incredibly strong around the basket. Keeps the ball up.
“He’s a very good offensive rebounder, and he’s actually a very good passer, too. So I think he has an excellent chance to be a real good college player and a chance to be a real good pro player, too.”
Boyle compared Johnson favorably to current Kentucky center Nerlens Noel.
“The big kid that Kentucky has now is a more athletic player, but Dakari’s definitely further along in his basketball IQ,” he said. “If he was at Kentucky now, he’d be getting very good numbers as a freshman.”
Makini Campbell, Johnson’s mother and a teacher at Montverde, told SNY.tv last week that Kentucky remains a strong option for her son because of the family’s connections to Lexington.
“Actually, last Thanksgiving we spent time with his friends there, with his extended family,” she said. “So for him that is kind of like going back to something that ‘s very familiar and something that is likable.”
Johnson also played alongside former Kentucky star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Pat’s, when the Celtics lost to St. Anthony in the mythical national championship game in 2011. St. Pat’s 2010-11 season, Boyle’s last in New Jersey, was documented in the film, Prayer For a Perfect Season.
Campbell also indicated that the family had “question marks” about a couple schools on his list that already have centers on their roster or committed for 2013. Syracuse and Kansas fall into that category.
“Some schools will probably not be in the mix because of some players that signed, and also whether or not schools have availability [of scholarships],” she said. “We looked at some schools that they tend to have had verbal commitments from players that are very similar to Dakari, so now he’s kind of getting the thought, ‘Well, maybe that’s not really the school that I may want to consider.'”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.