By Roy & Harv Schmidt
There has been at least one basketball recruitment in the Chicago area with a strange twist every year for the past four years. In 2005 it was Julian Wright, in 2006 it was both Sherron Collins and Patrick Beverley, in 2007 it was Derrick Rose and last year it was both Michael Dunigan and Matt Humphrey. It appears as though this year's candidate might be Whitney Young's Anthony Johnson, and what makes this even more eye-popping is that Johnson is only a class of 2010 prospect.
Before we go any further, let us emphasize that we ARE NOT accusing anyone of wrong doing and are certainly not saying that anyone is engaging in any improprieties, because we don't believe that is the case. We are simply saying that it appears as if there could be more to Johnson's recruitment than meets the eye with respect to how far along the process is and how soon a commitment may be forthcoming.
The bulk of the evidence which supports our reasoning surrounds plenty of interesting comments that Johnson has made when it comes to one school's involvement with him in particular. That school happens to be Ohio State. Simply put, it appears as though Johnson has been much more discreet when it comes to discussing where the Buckeyes stand in his recruitment.
In a previous article on another recruiting site talking about Johnson's recruitment, Johnson, when asked about Ohio State said, "there are things I can't comment on right now." Not only that, but in another article in which Johnson was specifically asked to name the schools which have offered him scholarships, he mentioned five schools--Illinois, Notre Dame, Purdue, Iowa and Iowa State. Yet he also indicated that he has a total of six offers, refusing to tell anyone who the sixth school is. As we continue with this blog, hopefully everyone will see why this is more than just a minor detail.
To take matters a step further, Johnson has also stated that he plans on visiting the Ohio State campus some time in August. This is most significant when one considers the fact that as of now Johnson has scheduled no other visits during that month. Not only that, but based on how Johnson is talking there is reason to believe that the visit to Columbus is something that has been in the works for quite some time.
We believe that all of this provides yet another perfect illustration of why Buckeye head coach Thad Matta is one of the best recruiters in college basketball. Simply put, Matta believes that it is important to get in on recruits early and try to secure a commitment as quickly as possible. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Matta's recruiting philosophy and aggressive approach have been extremely successful from the first day he arrived in Columbus.
What does any of this have to do with Johnson? Well, we think that we may be able to offer up a few explanations which will be helpful in answering that question. We begin by flashing back to when Matta was recruiting Evan Turner. At that time many insiders believed that Turner was headed to Illinois. However, Matta was able to get Turner on campus for a visit and in doing so pretty much secured a verbal commitment from Turner on the spot, much to the chagrin of the Illini Nation, who thought that they had Turner in the fold. Some people also believed that both Matta and Turner may have worked out the equivalent of a "silent verbal" prior to Turner's visit.
Our point is that it appears as though Johnson's recruitment parallels Turner's in many ways. It would certainly explain why Johnson is laying low when it comes to talking about where things stand between him and Ohio State. Could it be that Matta will officially extend a scholarship to Johnson upon his campus visit (thus explaining the sixth scholarship which Johnson refused to name) and that in doing so a commitment to Ohio State could be imminent? Or to take it even further, has a "silent verbal" already been worked out? As we have said on many occassions, time will tell.
It is easy to see why Matta (or any college coach for that matter) would want to try to secure an early commitment from Johnson. The overall skill set of the 6'2 guard is extremely high, which is why he ranks among the top 5 players in Illinois from the class of 2010. Johnson is an outstanding spot up shooter, and that is primarily how he has been used on his high school team. At the same time, he has also proven throughout the course of the spring and summer with his AAU team (the 16-Under Illinois Warriors) that he has the combination of ball handling skills, strength and athleticism to consistently score off the dribble and get to the basket and finish.
Despite the fact that Ohio State appears to be the frontrunner for Johnson's services, the other schools recruiting him are not ready to concede anything just yet. Most all of the aforementioned schools that have offered remain in the picture. In addition, Marquette and Kentucky continue to show heavy interest, with Kansas being the latest to join the hunt. However, we find it most interesting that while at the NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC, two college coaches from schools that are both recruiting Johnson agreed with us when we said that if they want to remain in the race for Johnson, they had better get him on campus before Ohio State does. Enough said!