Duke Focusing On Gary Johnson in 2007

There's no easy way around it. The Blue Devils suffered a big setback on the recruiting trail last weekend when Tennessee big forward Brandan Wright committed to North Carolina. And while the class of 2006 radar now stands at one man, Lance Thomas, the class of 2007 is beginning to come a bit clearer. One of the main targets in the frontcourt is Houston power forward Gary Johnson, who spoke with TDD this week.

"Right now I'm just enjoying the process, and I'm listening to everyone," says 6-foot-7; 215 pound power forward Gary Johnson. "But the schools I'm hearing from the most are Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, UConn, Arizona, and Texas."

Still, it's early for Johnson, who is rated as a five star prospect by Scout.com, and as the No. 18 overall player and sixth best power forward in what projects to be a strong class of 2007, and a decision isn't anywhere on the horizon.

"Right now I don't think I'll make a decision until around the beginning of my senior year. I want to take it all in and see what's out there from the different schools. There are a lot of things to think about, and unless I'm sure there's no point to narrow anything down so early."

A well thoughtout strategy for attacking the process, and one that is becomming common for many high major recruits. So when it comes time to start whittling the list down a bit, what's going to play a big role for him?

"Academics are going to be very important for me, and I want to go somewhere that will help me get a top education. On the court I'd like to pick a school that will give me a chance to come in and play early on. I don't need to start, but I want a chance to earn some time early."

Earning things the hard way isn't anything new for Johnson, and if you saw him on the court you'd understand why – just check out Scout's own Dave Telep's evaluation of the Houston prepstar:

"Johnson is an extremely powerful forward. He loves to rebound and do the dirty work inside. Beats guys with intensity, effort and hustle. Will need to develop offensive game but he's an elite athlete and forward prospect."

The lack of an elite offensive arsenal is a weakness acknowledged, but not accepted by Johnson.

"I'm working on improving my dribbling and shooting every day. When I'm on the court I'm out there to win and compete, but to take it to the next level I need to improve my skill set. I'm going to do that so I can hopefully make a case for the McDonalds Game next year."

So far Johnson has broken the usual mold of a usual Blue Devil recruit, having head coach Mike Krzyzewski in the house for an open gym workout. And while the Duke head coach usually waits to extend an offer, that isn't the case in this one.

"Duke has offered me, yeah. So have the rest of the schools on my list. I can take some visits coming soon, and I may do that. I'm really looking forward that part of the process."

Johnson averaged 16 points and 12 boards as a freshman at Aldine and followed that up with a 23 point, 14 rebound sophomore campaign.

"He's so coachable and his work ethic is out of this world," Aldine coach Zeek Smith told TDD previously. "When I tell all the guys that practice is over, he wants to keep playing. He's just a coach's dream and a gym rat. He always keeps his composure and sets a great example as far as leadership is concerned," Smith added. "He's an inside guy right now, but we're trying to get him to where he'll be able to play some three."

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