The day before Cuonzo Martin announced the hiring of Wyking Jones, and helped point guard Tyrone Wallace announce his return for his senior season, the California head men’s basketball coach was out on the recruiting trail, and he was hunting for big men.
Martin visited 2016 seven-footer Jayce Johnson on April 23, offering to drive to Santa Monica, Calif., for an in-home visit, but traffic was so bad that Jayce’s father, Jay, didn’t want Martin to drive in it coming back from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. Instead, they met and had dinner at a restaurant near Johnson’s workout facility.
That meeting lasted two hours.
“I had training, and so we decided to meet up at a little restaurant, and we met up there, and had our visit,” Johnson said. “We were talking for a good hour and a half. He talked about how he’d develop me, and how I would fit in to their program, and how much he needed me. We talked about my future, and stuff like that, with basketball, and how he’s happy watching me, and seeing me progress and getting better.”
Johnson – a four-star prospect for the 2016 class – has offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Cal State Northridge, Cal, Fresno State, Portland, Tulsa, UNLV, Utah and Washington State, with Stanford, UCLA and Nebraska also expressing interest.
The man who would be charged with Johnson’s further development at Cal would be Jones, who was a big man himself in college, and was on a national champion coaching staff at Louisville in 2013.
“He brought it up, talked about how they’re getting a big man, and he’s going to be a big man I can work with,” Johnson said. “He’s younger, so he can actually get in with the guys, and work out with them, so that’d be nice to have an experienced coach actually getting in and going up against you.”
Martin and company also added 2015 five-star big man Ivan Rabb to the fold two weeks ago, giving Johnson a bit of a preview as to how the staff will coach the post with multiple viable bodies to play.
“Cuonzo was talking about how he wants Ivan Rabb more as a four, and I’d be the five,” Johnson said. “He was talking about how that would be how I’d fit into the program – I’d be the five, he’d be the four. When they got him, I was surprised, because I thought he was definitely going to Arizona. I was surprised, but the potential for playing with any great player, it’s great. I’m happy t play with anyone. I’m grateful.”
Johnson’s meeting with Martin wasn’t the first time he’s seen the Bears staff this month, as Yanni Hufnagel watched Johnson twice during the open viewing period, at the Double Pump tournament down in Anaheim, Calif.
The Bears are in good standing with Johnson and his family, in no small part because he’s teammates with Jonah Mathews, the younger brother of sharpshooting junior Jordan Mathews.
As for visits, Johnson said that he will “definitely” get back up to Berkeley for another unofficial, but after that, he will focus more on official visits. He’s certainly seen – and heard – plenty when it comes to the Bears, in part because of Mathews.
“Jonah’s a really great player, and he’s coming along, which has been great,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking about Cal. He’s offered by Cal too, and we talk about it sometimes. It’s a subject we talk about a lot, because we’ve both been offered. I’ll ask him about his brother, and how he’s doing. It’s good.”