Almost as if it’s the public weigh-in the day before a major boxing bout, both competitors ensuring they come off fearless and focused, 2014 Ypsilanti (Mich.) high school forward Jaylen Johnson enters that same mindset heading into basketball games, one that reads, ‘I’m not going to get punked.’
And more times than not, Johnson delivers the punch instead of taking one.
“I’m not scared of anything and when the opportunity comes you got to take advantage of it,” Johnson told GoBlueWolverine. “Just step up to the plate. And if I don’t, I try to next time.”
Boasting similar size and athletic ability to 2014 five-star Milwaukee (Wisc.) Hamilton high school forward Kevon Looney, Johnson was ready for the challenge of attacking and defending one of the most highly coveted recruits in the country when his Dorian’s Pride squad matched up with the Milwaukee Running Rebels at Spiece Run N’ Slam.
“He’s a good player but I don’t think he’s better than me,” said Johnson. “I still don’t think he’s better than me.”
Offers, interest, and upside at the next level would seem to indicate differently, but when two players line up across from one another on the court, the added hoopla doesn’t help put the ball in the hoop itself. Johnson was aggressive around the rim, grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, running the floor and putting a lot of pressure on the Running Rebels frontcourt.
One game doesn’t mean everything, but Johnson is slowly but surely proving he’ll have a role in the college program he chooses, bringing plenty of energy and productivity to his eventual landing spot.
“I’ve been getting a lot of rebounds for my team,” said Johnson. “I think since I’ve been working on my shot more, it’s been falling. I’ve been trying to be more aggressive -- dunking on people, getting more rebounds, and take shots to help my team win.”
Johnson’s vocal leadership continues to increase as well, often showing his teammates the way, and as a result of his presence and play, college coaches want to hear more from him too.
Michigan is another school that continues to target Johnson, watching his development play out this spring and summer.
“I’m really cool with their coach, Bacari (Alexander),” said Johnson. “When I see him he tells me that he wants me to get stronger and stuff so I listen to him because he’s at the next level.”
Still a little ways off from a decision, Johnson plans to narrow down his list of schools sometime after AAU wraps up in July, weighing his options with his pastor, mother, and family to see what fits him best.
“Main thing is a school that can help me better myself on and off the court,” said Johnson. “And help get me to the next level.”
Johnson also holds offers from Florida State, Oregon, Iowa State, VCU, Maryland, and USC.
In case you missed Johnson’s highlights from Spiece, press play below.