Pitino watches top junior Noel Johnson

Rick Pitino hasn't quite put the finishing touches on his 2008 recruiting class, but Tuesday night the Louisville coach travelled to Georgia to get a head start on the Class of 2009. Pitino was in attendance at Fayette County HS to watch 6'7 Noel Johnson, Scout.com's No. 28 ranked prospect nationally.

Rick Pitino hasn't quite put the finishing touches on his 2008 recruiting class, but Tuesday night the Louisville coach travelled to Georgia to get a head start on the Class of 2009. Pitino was in attendance at Fayette County HS to watch 6'7 Noel Johnson, Scout.com's No. 28 ranked prospect nationally.

Johnson didn't disappoint, scoring a career-high 42 points to lead Fayette County to a 64-59 win over rival McIntosh.

"It was great having (Coach Pitino) in there watching Noel," said Andre Flynn, Johnson's high school coach. "He had a pretty good game. We had a tough night but we had Noel to bail us out a little bit. He had 42 points and 14 rebounds."

Flynn, a native of Lexington, has strong ties to the Bluegrass State. He played collegiately for Transylvania University where he teamed and roomed with Pitino's agent, Rick Avare.


Noel Johnson scored 42 points with
Rick Pitino watching Tuesday night.
"I think just by Coach Pitino showing up it shows a huge interest in him," said Flynn. "I'm from Lexington and went to Transylvania University. So I have some ties there at Kentucky. I've talked to Noel and given him the insight into Kentucky basketball in general – both Louisville and Kentucky. So it's interesting for him. With Coach Pitino showing such interest and coming to the game and watching him play I think Noel appreciated that."

Johnson, a versatile performer who can play multiple positions, is being recruited by all of college basketball's heavy-weight programs. He's currently sporting an offer from Louisville and Flynn said he believes the Cardinals will be strong contenders to land Johnson down the road.

"I think Louisville is going to be one of the contenders. I know they are as far as where he wants to try to go to school in about two years," Flynn said. "I think they are up there on his list. There are a whole lot of teams coming at Noel but I think with Coach Pitino's record and what he's done at the NBA level, I think that's going to play into it. So I think Louisville is pretty high on the list."

While Flynn expects Louisville to be a player in Johnson's recruitment, the talented junior remains open to all schools.

"Everybody is in the mix and everybody is showing great interest in Noel," Flynn said. "He's a talented kid. He's 6'7 and he can play three positions. He's being recruited by just about everybody in the country."

Louisville fans will have an opportunity to watch Johnson closely next month at the King of the Bluegrass Tournament at Fairdale High.

"We're playing in the King of the Bluegrass," said Flynn. "We'll be there for like four days. I'm sure he'll make an official when the time comes and he sits down and decides his top schools. I'm sure Louisville will be one of those schools."

A 3.5 student in the classroom, Flynn says that his star player is very respectful and coachable and is a great teammate. Flynn also had high praise for Johnson's skills on the basketball court.

"The thing that is impressive about Noel is his basketball IQ," he said. "In high school, he can play 1-5 but at the next level he can play the one, two or three. He's a great point guard, a good rebounder and he can shoot the three-ball.

"The thing about last night was he didn't hit one three-pointer and still had 42 points. He was attacking the basket, pulling up. He's a big guard and plays the game the right way. When he's double-teamed he passes the ball and when he has to take control of the game he can do that. He's an exciting basketball player. He's a smart kid and he's probably a better person than he is a basketball player."


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