Five-Star Jalen Johnson took the National Hoopfest by storm this year and made a strong case for being regarded as the top class of 2020 prospect in the nation. The Nicolet (WI) junior came into this event looking to prove something.
“I just tried coming out here and play the best I could,” said Johnson. “I came out here knowing that we were the underdogs and with us traveling all the way from Wisconsin we had a point to prove.”
Johnson sees himself as the top prospect in the class of 2020 and makes sure he plays like it whenever he is on the floor.
“I just have to go out here and play my game every game,” he said. “There’s not really that much pressure, but I’m the best player in the nation. That’s my opinion and I’m going to play like it. I’m a winner and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”
He thinks what separates him from others in his class is his willingness to put his team first.
“I bring everything, a lot of these kids just care about themselves and their stat line,” Johnson said. “I care about winning because at the next level they aren’t going to care about the stat lines, they are going to care if you win.”
Johnson is a bit further down the line than most are with the recruitment process. He has already taken three official visits to Duke, Arizona, and UCLA. The Duke Blue Devils were his first visit and he liked the pitch he got from them.
“They are just saying that I can come in and make a huge impact for them right away,” he said. “They made me a priority since my freshman year of high school so I feel really special with that. They just keep telling me to get better every day.”
The next visit for him was the Arizona Wildcats where head coach Sean Miller spoke to him about how he can fit in with their program.
“It was nice down there, Coach Miller preached to me that I would be able to push the ball a lot,” said Johnson. “They have this thing called the Phoenix push and they feel like I’m able to play one through five for them. I can do whatever for them so it’s kind of the same thing as Duke.”
UCLA was his most recent visit and a big part of what the coaching staff told him was what the school can do for him off the court.
“L.A. is a big branded city and that’s kind of what they were saying on how I can build my brand out there,” he said. “It was basically the same as the other schools really. They want me to get out there in nine months so that’s basically what they said.”
Johnson attended Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness and he was blown away with the environment there. He also got a chance to talk with John Calipari about what he has planned for the 2020 prospect.
“That visit was crazy, it was a crazy atmosphere,” said Johnson. “I loved it down there and Coach Calipari was saying the same thing as the other schools. They want me to continuously get better, perfect my craft and he feels that I can be a really good playmaker for that program.”
A Big East program could be the next to receive an official visit from Johnson.
“I’m not really sure yet, but I probably want to get down to Georgetown for an official soon,” he said. “Other than that I still have a little bit of time.”
Johnson is intrigued with the history Georgetown has and the amount he can learn from head coach Patrick Ewing.
“Just the history they have, being able to learn from one of the greats in Patrick Ewing would be huge because he has experience in the NBA,” Johnson said. “They have a lot of knowledge and I’ll be able to pick their brains.”
The Wisconsin Badgers have been recruiting him hard for quite some time and he recognizes how special it could be to stay home for college.
“It would be big, my fan base down there would be huge,” Johnson said. “It’s something that’s on the back of my mind and something I’ll have to talk about with my family. They are going to be at the top at the end of it and the fan base would be really crazy down there.”