Shaquille Johnson Commits To Marshall

Shaquille Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 191-pound combo guard from Jacksonville's (Fla.) Robert E. Lee High School, was one of the top unsigned backcourt players in the country, until today. Johnson gave a commitment to Marshall University on Thursday and will be part of what appears to be an outstanding group of players for next year's Thundering Herd, coming off a first winning season in seven years.

Johnson has a long relationship with both Marshall head coach Donnie Jones, as well as one of Jones' assistant coaches. "I have known Coach Jones for three years, since he was at Florida," said Johnson on Thursday. "I also have known (Marshall assistant coach) Brett Nelson for a couple of years. They were recruiting me at VCU when he was there." Nelson was with former MU and Florida assistant Anthony Grant, now the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, last season before joining Jones' first-year staff at Marshall.

"The relationship with both of those coaches had a lot to do with committing to Marshall," said Johnson. "I also like the style of offense Marshall is playing, up-tempo like here at Lee, using three guards. I think the Marshall coaches can help me to develop my game on the court, and off the court in school as well."

Johnson was also pleasantly surprised by the Marshall crowds when he visited Huntington for the Feb. 23 win over Central Florida, one of a large group of schools who lost out to Marshall on getting Johnson. "So many fans came up to welcome me, it was a big surprise," said Johnson, who was easy to spot in his Jacksonville AAU pullover at the game. "It was a great crowd." The Herd knocked off the Knights, 71-66, that night.

Johnson was the Class 5A Player of the Year and All-Gateway Conference in 2006-07 for the Lee Generals, when he averaged 19 points per game. This season, Johnson said he averaged 23 points per game, five rebounds, over four assists and two steals per game. The Generals finished 25-6 last season and advanced to the 5A Florida State semi-finals for the first time for Lee H.S. since 1961.

Johnson is able to play the point or shooting guard, although he played the point mostly this season. "It doesn't matter to me which position I play," said Johnson. "If you are at the point, you worry more about assists. If at the two, you worry more about scoring." Johnson also said although he hopes to bulk up some from his current 191-pounds, he likes his chances when on defense. "I can lock up most other guards on defense," said Johnson.

Offensively, Johnson shot 58 percent as a junior as well as 54 percent from three. He also played for the Jacksonville AAU team, the Lee Bulls, but a major tragedy certainly impacted his play last summer, and his life still today. His best friend, and AAU teammate, Dante Anderson died last summer, and Johnson was moved to change his jersey number to 22, which was Anderson's number.

in 2007-08, Johnson led the Generals to an 21-5 mark this season and Lee High School was ranked as high at No. 4 in Class 5A. The Generals were the No. 1 seed in the region, was upset in the Region 1, District 3-5A semi-finals, falling to rival Englewood, 46-44, but Johnson did score 18 points in the loss. Johnson was looking forward to the game he never got to play in the next round, as he and his Lee teammates would have gotten to play the other Marshall commitment from Florida and Dillard High School, Kore White. White and his team went on to win the 5A championship and now Johnson and White will join the green and white of Marshall.

"Yeah, that was a tough loss," said Johnson. "We would have played Dillard and Kore in the next game, except for the loss to Englewood. I was looking forward to that match-up." The Generals did win the championship of the Gateway Conference with a 61-58 victory over Jackson High School. Johnson led the Gens with 21 points, despite three fouls in the first seven minutes and a technical for foul No. 4 late in the third quarter.

The combo guard is ranked highly by multiple sites. Scout.com has him with three stars and rated at the No. 32 guard in the nation. Floridahoops.com has Johnson at a "four basketballs" rating, while Prepspotlight.com rates Johnson as the No. 40 wing player in the nation. CBS College Sports Television (formerly CSTV) rates him as the 212th-best player in the nation. As an AAU player, he was ranked as the 23rd-best player by Grassroots Basketball of America (GBOA.com).

Johnson said his final list came down to the hometown college, Jacksonville, plus other schools. "I also was recruited by Tulane, UCF, VCU and Minnesota," said Johnson. Minnesota is where former MU head coach Ron Jirsa is an assistant to Tubby Smith for the Golden Gophers.

According to published reports, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, Missouri, South Florida and George Mason also had showed interest in Johnson. Marshall now has commitments from White and Johnson from the Sunshine State, plus has already signed Damier Pitts, a point guard at Hargrave Military Academy. One of Pitts' coaches with the Tigers is former MU point guard, A.W. Hamilton. The Herd also will have eligible three transfers who are sitting out as transfers this season in Brandon Powell from Florida, Tay Spann from Georgetown and Chris Lutz from Purdue.

Johnson expects to arrive this summer in Huntington to start the transition from playing high school and AAU basketball in Florida to living in the dorm and playing college basketball. "I plan on getting to Marshall in June," said Johnson. "I'll start working out, getting stronger. It will be a big adjustment to college life, living in a dorm, going to class, but I am looking forward to getting with my new teammates and making an impact next fall at Marshall."


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