Ranked among the nation's top 75 prospects in the 2014 class, Jaylen Johnson's hopes were to become a contributor from day one at the University of Louisville. At 6-foot-9, 215-pounds, the four-star forward had the size to go along with the talent to play right away until the dreaded NCAA put on hold on his eligibility as they combed through high school paperwork.
Johnson waited and waited for word from the NCAA Clearinghouse as his future teammates began preparing for the upcoming season. First a week, then a month went by. Finally, six weeks later, and on the day that classes began at U of L, the NCAA finally provided clearance for him to participate.
”It was frustrating because I had everything planned out,” he said of the situation. “I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I just stayed positive and it worked out.”
A dominant inside presence at Ypsilanti (Mich.) High School, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.3 blocks as a senior and earned first team All-State honors. Once at U of L, he would find that he was behind schedule. He didn't know the playbook and he wasn't in Rick Pitino game condition.
“It's been great, but it took a lot of work to get here,” he said prior to the team's first scrimmage.
Playing sparingly during the preseason, Johnson totaled 4 points, 5 rebounds and an assist in the two Red-White scrimmage. After not playing in the Cardinals first team exhibition against Barry University, Johnson clocked 6 minutes against Bellarmine and picked up a quick 3 fouls, while also scoring a basket and grabbing 4 rebounds.
The transition, especially when arriving late, can be a slow process.
“This team is like another level,” Johnson said. “In high school I was the man, but here I am looking up to other people.”
While reaching the point of helping his team on the floor during games has proven a challenge thus far, Johnson is benefiting from working against All-American forward Montrezl Harrell in practice.
“I'm coming in with the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the country,” Johnson explained. “He treats me like an older brother would his little brother. He gets on me, but it's cool because he teaches me different aspects of the game.”
Despite being behind to start his first year as a Cardinal, Johnson realizes that his chance to contribute will come and he understands that he's in control of that opportunity.
“If I keep working hard, the sky is the limit,” he said.