Dakari Johnson Ready to Face Future Kentucky Teammates in McDonald’s Game
Dakari Johnson is the lone Kentucky commit on the McDonald’s All-American East roster.
Four of his future teammates are on the West squad in the game set for April 3 at Chicago’s United Center.
The way Johnson figures it, the organizers may just have been afraid to put all five future Wildcats on the same team for fear of the havoc they might wreak.
Kentucky and coach John Calipari have the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
“I guess they didn’t want the world to see what all five of us could do on the court at the same time,” Johnson, a 6-foot-10 center from Montverde (Fla.) Academy, joked to SNY.tv.
Johnson’s future Kentucky teammates, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee and James Young, are all on the West side, as is uncommitted forward Aaron Gordon of Archbishop Mitty (Calif.), who is considering Kentucky, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.
If Gordon hasn’t decided by the time of the game, his four Kentucky-bound teammates may try to sway him. (Washington-bound point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is also on the West team.)
The East team, meantime, will also feature uncommitted forward Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (W.V.) Prep, who is considering Kentucky along with Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina and plans to announce in April. Johnson can try to whisper in his ear, while East teammate Wayne Selden can tell him about Kansas’s virtues.
Johnson is a former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick standout who followed coach Kevin Boyle to Montverde. The good news is that he will team with Florida-bound teammate Kasey Hill on the East team.
“It feels great to make the McDonald’s Game,” Johnson said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was young and making it is really big and a huge accomplishment.
“It will feel good to play with my brother, Kasey Hill. I’m used to playing with him so it’s great they teamed us together; and to compete against my future teammates will be interesting because I know we all like to compete but it should be fun and a great experience.”
Ten days after the McDonald’s Game, Johnson and his four future Kentucky teammates will play in the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Ironically, there he will team on the West squad with Andrew Harrison, Young and Lee, while Aaron Harrison will be the lone Kentucky commit on the East.
“In the Jordan Game, it will be fun because I will get a chance to play with three of my future teammates and get used to their games and just create chemistry,” Johnson said.
Between the two All-Star games, the five Kentucky commits should get a good chance to bond and learn about one another on and off the court.
“It will be good hanging around those guys because we will not only get to play with and against each other on the court but we’ll get to hang out and know each other off the court,” he said. “That will be cool.”
Asked about Nerlens Noel’s ACL injury and how strong Kentucky could be next season should Noel opt to return to campus and forego the NBA Draft, Johnson said:
“I don’t know about Nerlens’ situation,” he said. “That is his decision to make, but he is a great and very talented player so I have no doubt he will make the best decision for him.
“But it would be cool to play with him if he decides to come, but ultimately that is up to him.”
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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.