ATLANTA, GA - Judging from the stories written lately on Fayette County (GA) shooting star Noel Johnson, you might think the Michigan State Spartans were out of the running for the services of this talented 6-foot-7 swingman.
But you would be wrong. Not only are the Spartans in the running, but they rank very highly among the schools Johnson is considering.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo laid the groundwork last season when he was wooing and eventually signing Atlanta's Chris Allen to a National Letter of Intent. At that time, Izzo spotted both Richard Howell and Johnson and began recruiting both.
Now fast forward to this season.
MSU has already taken two players for the 2009 recruiting class and probably will give just one more. While Howell and Racine (WI) Horlick's Jamil Wilson are heavy contenders - don't count out Johnson just yet.
Most published reports link Johnson to Louisville, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Alabama, but Johnson's father, Lynbert "Cheese" Johnson - a former standout player for Wichita (KA) State from 1975-79 - told GSN that Michigan State is definitely in the running.
Johnson told GSN that he is guiding his son's recruitment and all calls and visits are set up through him. "We don't want it to become a distraction or a burden on Noel," said Johnson regarding why it is so tough to contact his son.
The elder Johnson, who played two seasons for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA and in Europe said when the decision is made, he and his son will sit down with a group of trusted friends and advisors to make the decision - and what a group it is - more on that later.
"He's definitely still interested in them," said Johnson, "But they don't talk to him, they talk to us, me and my wife. We want him to stay focused on his academics; we don't want him to get off track. So the coaches don't speak to him."
Johnson continued, "Louisville is one of the schools he's looking at, so is Michigan State. Tom Izzo is a good guy; he's been down here a couple of times. He's been to a couple of his high school games. I spoke to Coach Montgomery a couple of weeks ago."
Mr. Johnson confirmed that Noel has a scholarship offer from the Spartans and said "he probably won't make a decision until after the summer." He also narrowed it down a bit by saying it would likely be before his son's senior season begins. Currently, Johnson is lighting up the AAU circuit playing with the Atlanta Celtics.
Oh, about that panel of friends helping to make the decision?
"Me, my wife, Xavier (McDaniel, second all-time leading scorer in Wichita State history), Tiny Archibald (UTEP standout and NBA star with Cincinnati, New York, Boston and Milwaukee a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time team), John Lucas (former Maryland standout and NBA star with the Houston Rockets) and Mike Glenn (former Southern Illinois star and NBA player with New York, Atlanta and Milwaukee), that's his crew," said Johnson.
Now that kind of name dropping definitely brings a 'wow' factor, but not to worry, Michigan State has an "in" with the group too.
"We'll sit down and talk about how they take care of their former players, their alumni base. That's the kind of criteria we'll look at," said Johnson.
'Cheese' had some great battles against Larry Bird and Indiana State when the two of them were collegiate standouts, so has he talked to Magic Johnson to ask him about the Spartans?
"No I haven't talked to him yet, but I spoke to one of their other players, Ron (Bobo) Charles, he lives right next door to me." said Johnson.
Charles was the center on Michigan State's 1979 National Championship team led by Johnson under then head coach Jud Heathcoat.
Before we ended the interview, Johnson promised to allow GSN to speak to Noel to get his insight and feeling about where he stands in the recruiting process in the future, but we left this conversation enlightened about the prospects of one of the nation's top players and his chances of ending up at Michigan State.
Talk about MSU's 2009 recruiting class and how a possible Noel Johnson commitment might shake things up in the Hoops Insight message board.
Also in the message board: a link to an excellent video of Noel Johnson working out with former NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly known as Chris Jackson).
Spartans Not Out Picture For Noel Johnson
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