Last year at this time, Franklin (IN) Central power forward JaJuan Johnson was an unheralded sophomore prospect looking to improve his game and make a name for himself on the summer circuit. The 6-10, 200-pounder didn't see much court time during his high school season, which caused him to be a relative unknown both nationally and locally.
My, what a difference a year makes. After Johnson turned in impressive showings on the AAU trail with his team (the Spiece Central Stars), colleges began taking notice. A more confident Johnson entered his junior year eager to be more productive, and his Coach, Mark James, expected more as a result.
``He hasn’t really even played varsity basketball yet,” James told
Scout.com prior to the season. “We’ve hit him. He played about eight
games – sparingly. He’s really a puppy right now.”
``He’s got a ton of potential,” added James. “No one really knows the limit to his potential. He’s just so green to the game.”
Johnson responded to the challenge, making good on the promise he showed during the summer by delivering big numbers for his high school team. He averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. The youngster credits his coach for helping him get this far, but he knows he can still improve in a lot of areas. He hopes to do just that over the summer.
"Coach James has really worked with me," Johnson said. "He has really been helping me. Without him I wouldn’t even be playing basketball. I know I can still get better. I need to get stronger, work on my perimeter shot, and my handles. What I hope to accomplish (this summer) is to help my team win, and to improve from what I did last year."
In his quest to get better, Johnson has made it a point to look very closely at the games of a few professional players. He has patterned himself after Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince. “I can play the 3 the 4 and the 5 spot," Johnson said noting the similarities between him and his idols. “I like KG because he brings that intensity, defense and he can score. Tayshaun Prince brings the defense, he can guard anybody, he can handle the ball and he brings it up the floor."
While Johnson certainly isn't as accomplished as the aforementioned athletes were at the same stage of development, the versatility and athleticism he has shown has definitely intrigued a number of Division I programs. He claims offers from Purdue, Xavier, Missouri, Butler, Ball State and Virginia. The Michigan Wolverines have shown a lot of interest over the past year, as evidenced by their visits to watch him work out during that period, but he'd like to see more.
"I would like for Michigan to show me more attention," Johnson said. "I like the way Coach Amaker lets them play. I am looking for a coach that I can have a close relationship with and that coach will gel with his players. My interest is pretty high in Michigan. Besides, my mom has relatives in Detroit”.
With summer hoops now underway, Johnson is a prospect Michigan will likely be watching…which obviously suits the young man just fine.
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Johnson in the coming months.