West Coast wing has impressive suitors

It should come as no surprise that there are some great players once again coming out of Westchester High School. The Los Angeles high school is one of the great powers, not only in California, but the nation. The Wildcats recruited Hassan Adams out of the program and have been speaking with another high flyer from the school.

Marcus Johnson is one of the most athletic players in the 2005 recruiting class. The 6-6 wing is a freak athlete. He's very quick and an unbelievable leaper.

Johnson has long been the target of elite schools and his list has not changed too much since last summer.

"It is pretty much the same," Johnson said. "Louisville is more into it, and so is Duke a little bit. Overall it's Arizona, Kansas, Syracuse and Connecticut."

For the longest time Johnson has been listing the Orangemen as his favorite and he hasn't backed off of the claim, although he isn't quite as emphatic about Jim Boheim's club as he used to be. "Yeah, a little bit, I guess you could say that," Johnson said when asked whether Syracuse was still his leader. "I've always liked them."

He claims that most of the teams on his list are still coming hard. Since the spring recruiting season has started he's hearing from most of his favorites.

Most, but not all.

"I haven't talked to Arizona in awhile, but I really like them," Johnson said. "They've told me I can come in and have offered me a scholarship already, but I haven't talked to any assistant coaches in awhile. Hopefully they'll be back in contact with me."

The Wildcats are still pursuing the Cats, but he isn't their top wing choice. The Wildcats seem to like Martell Webster and Julian Wright more. Despite the lack of contact, the Wildcats have an advantage over the other schools on his list.

"My mom wants me to stay close to home," Johnson confessed. "I don't really care for too many schools in California other than Stanford, really. Arizona is my number one team in the Pac-10."

Mom isn't the only one pushing for Arizona, a former Westchester Comet has also been hyping the school. Hassan Adams has let Johnson know about the Wildcats.

"I talked to Hassan every so often," Johnson said. "He tells me that Arizona would be a good place for me."

One interesting team in the mix is Louisville. The Cardinals have been getting in on a number of California kids. Rick Pitino seems to be chasing Jamal Boykin hard and the team has been in contact with Johnson. Johnson said the Cardinals have a lot of things that California players are looking for.

"It has to do with everything," he said of his interest in Louisville. "Their style of play fits most West Coast players because we like the fast paced style, we like to run and dunk. He also has a track record. He's won in college and has coached in the NBA. He knows every level of basketball."

Johnson feels that playing at Westchester has been a benefit. With all of the talent roaming the halls, the program has been cranking out collegian after collegian. Johnson thinks that just being at practice can make him a better player.

"It gets you ready for college," said Johnson. "In college you are going to play with great players. You have to learn how to fit in, instead of always being the star player. It also gets you ready, you get prepared skill-wise. Most of those guys are so good it's like they are already playing against college players already."

Johnson has plays for the SoCal All Stars, one of the better travel teams in the nation. The team has been successful, despite two of its best players being high school freshmen. Taylor King has already committed to UCLA, while JayDee Luster is already being touted as one of the best point guards in the class. Johnson had nothing but high praise for his younger teammates. "Taylor is a great shooter and JayDee is a great passer," Johnson said. They are good, I like playing with them.

Despite the youth, the team has been very successful. They lost to the eventual champions, the Houston Hoops, in the semi-finals of the Las Vegas Spring Showcase and are currently ranked 24th in TheInsiders.com Traveling Team Top-25.

CAT TRACKS' ANALYSIS: Johnson is a real talent, but isn't as polished as the other wings at the top of the Wildcats' wish list. Johnson is not a great shooter and needs overall work on his offensive game, but man is he athletic. If the Cats have to "settle" on Johnson, then things are not so bad.

Photo by Carl F. Shifflette III

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