"I like it because it's in town, it's where I'm from," Johnson said of USC. "I feel like by the time I get there, I'll be able to contribute to the team fast. The coach recruiting me now was my mom's teacher, he used to babysit me when my mom was playing basketball, so I know him really well. He's kind of like an uncle to me.
"A lot of my friends are going there (Arizona). It's a really hot school right now. They win and they have a good coaching staff over there. I know a lot of people there, I have friends and family, and I like the basketball program itself."
Johnson's recruiting attention really began to take off in June 2012 and Arizona officially entered the Johnson sweepstakes with an offer and an aggressive recruiting pitch by Sean Miller.
"I have a lot of people over there," said Johnson. "I know a lot of the kids and I talk to them. I talk to Sean Miller and he's just a straight up guy. From the first time I talked to him I knew he was one of the straight up guys.
"I knew he wasn't going to give me the run around. That honesty I feel in his voice is very strong and that is to my liking."
Arizona continued to move aggressively and was able to get Johnson on campus in August of that year where, once again, Miller made a major impression.
"It would not be just one thing to be honest, because there were a lot of good things there," he said. "The best thing was probably talking to Coach Miller because he is a real person. When you talk to him you know he is not trying to lie to you or saying anything just to get you there. He tells you the truth. The campus was great, but just talking to him was great."
After the visit, Johnson went public with his intention to start to look at possibly narrowing down his list.
"I am trying to cut it down right now," he said. "I have not been back home, but coming back and hearing from different colleges, I am trying to cut it down to get it all in perspective so when I am a senior, making a decision will be easier for me."
The five-star forward would visit a few months later when he took in the Red and Blue game.
"It was a good campus," Johnson said. "The school spirit is crazy there. I went to the Red-Blue game which is a ‘Mid-day Madness' and it was packed. I was like ‘wow,' because it was a scrimmage. The coaches are great guys as well and they showed me on tape how I would fit in, and they are doing a great job of recruiting me."
It was at that point that Kentucky started to pick up its pursuit of Johnson and quickly made its pitch clear.
"From what coaches have told me I am their No. 1 target at the wing spot," Johnson said of Kentucky. "I could fit in like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did last year. I could fit in and play defense, bring toughness, and defend and that is the main thing. He is doing a good job of recruiting me."
Johnson's recruitment stayed the course until April of 2013, when both USC and UCLA found themselves replacing head coaches.
"I'm closer to narrowing it down than anything," Johnson said. "I basically cut it down already, but all the coaching changes happened, so I hit the brakes a bit and waited for the changes to happen."
Tony Bland was named to the staff at USC and Arizona and Kentucky continued to make Johnson one of their top priorities.
"I talked to (Bland) a lot at San Diego State," Johnson said at the time. "He did a great job and that was one of my top schools on my list. He knows a lot of people I call family really well. Having him there would be a big thing because I really like him.
"Arizona has done a really good job recruiting me since my freshman year," he said. "They're going to have a good chance because of coach (Sean) Miller.
"Kentucky has done a great job with its recruiting class and they're one of the most excited schools about me; they call me like every week. They've done a good job recruiting me."
Despite the coaching changes, Johnson maintained that he wanted to have a decision out of the way before his senior season began.
"I'm not one of those guys that's trying to prolong it and have a fake list with three schools I'm looking at and three that I'm not," he said.
"I want to have my decision over with heading into the season, so I can concentrate on basketball and know where I'm going. I really want to narrow my list down and focus on those schools because I have 10 schools on my list right now and it's kind of frustrating."
In June, Johnson decided to narrow his list and take official visits to Arizona, Kentucky, USC, Oregon, and Florida.
Although he would only wind up taking three of those visits, Johnson's criteria started to become more clear.
"I want to go somewhere that is going to let me play," he said. "I can play multiple positions and do different things on the court. I want to be able to play my first year and get out there right away.
"Rosters can change from season to season with transfers or guys going to the NBA. I'm looking at people who would be coming with me in my class. That's all I really have to bank on."
In the past month or so, it became apparent that the two schools Johnson felt fit his criteria the best were Arizona and USC. At the start of the month, Johnson visited the Trojans and the coaching staff made its pitch.
"It's an NBA coach, NBA sets, my style of play and they're doing a great job of convincing me that I could be in the NBA lottery after one year just by playing how I play with no restrictions," Johnson said. "I would have the green light right away."
In addition, it was one of the first times that Johnson hinted at possibly deciding earlier than originally anticipated.
"It could happen any time," he said. "Something could happen where a coach says something that hits home and I could make a decision, but I still have a lot of time left."
Only a few days ago, Johnson told Scout.com that he was going to wait to make a decision, but it only took one night for news to leak that Johnson would decide on Friday and the rest is history.