Getting To Know JaJuan Johnson

JaJuan Johnson of Indianapolis (Ind.) Franklin Central is yet another Indiana prospect (and Spiece Indy Heat player) showing interest in Ohio State. But it's early in Johnson's recruitment -- and his development as a player. Kyle Lamb has more on this prospect.

Imagine being a good enough player to merit scholarship offers from some of the top college basketball programs in the country, but barely being able to crack your varsity high school team.

Seem a little melodramatic? OK, perhaps it is. But it's the real-life situation JaJuan Johnson faced.

Make no mistake about it, that's a thing of the past.

Last season, the 6-10 Johnson played sparingly for his high school team at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis. Maybe that's a little odd, but it's not too surprising.

After all, most college offers are more about projection, where as playing on a high school team simply comes down to productivity.

It has been a long time since the high school season ended for Johnson. His stock has risen dramatically and now he finds himself being heavily recruited by some of the finest programs in the country.

"It's been kind of weird in this past year to get all this attention," Johnson explained. "You have all these coaches coming to see you in open gyms and I get all these letters and everything. I've somewhat adjusted to it."

Johnson is ranked as the No. 14 power forward in the nation by and stacks up at No. 42 in the country overall.

As far as the coaches coming in to see him, Johnson says there are plenty. Since the evaluation period began for NCAA coaches on September 9, dozens of coaches have been to Indianapolis to see him.

"Purdue, Xavier, Butler, Ohio State, Iowa, Tennessee and Ball State have come, and most of those have been in more than once," Johnson explained.

In addition to those schools, Johnson also added Illinois, Indiana State and Missouri as teams he's interested in.

There is good reason coaches are interested in Johnson. He's that dreaded p-word…potential.

Jim Reamer is an AAU coach in Indiana for the Spiece Select, and as part of the Spiece AAU program, he is familiar with Johnson who plays for Pat Mullins' Central Stars.

"He certainly has a very high ceiling," Reamer noted. "What's good about him is that he works hard. He never takes things for granted and despite his frame, he plays strong."

Reamer said that Johnson will need to add some weight in college, but that shouldn't be a problem.

"The thing is, he doesn't avoid contact he plays through it. There are times he can get knocked off track but he has shown the ability to play through defenders," Reamer added.

The next task at hand for Johnson is to take some visits to college campuses the rest of the fall. He noted that he has already been to Butler, Purdue and Xavier.

He has a short list of teams he still targets.

"I want to see Ohio State, Illinois, and, well, I am going to Ball State and Indiana State the next two weeks," Johnson said. "But I want to see schools that are close by."

Right now, Johnson has a soft spot for Ohio State because they have been in on him the longest.

"They started recruiting me a while ago…and they were one of the first ones to get in on me out of all the colleges," he explained. "So I really like Ohio State a lot."

Growing up in Indiana, the schools close to home are naturally in the back of Johnson's mind.

He said he doesn't really have any favorites per se, but he realizes there's something to be said for growing up watching the schools in his own back yard. But he said he wasn't necessarily a fan of any of them.

"Just being from Indiana, you kind of like IU and Purdue," he admitted. "But other than that, not really."

Statistically, there's not a lot to report on Johnson from his high school career. But he made a lot of strides during the AAU season improving his offensive game.

Unlike most kids his size and his age, he has already become comfortable with the ball in using low-post moves.

"I've seen him hit from 10 to 12 feet, but a lot of it is mid-range one dribble and get to the rim," Reamer described of Johnson's offensive game. "He's got good ability with his back to the basket too. He's just so long though."

Those long arms of his make a big difference in another facet - his defense.

"Right now, that's his asset," Reamer made a point to say. "That's his best feature. He's good on the ball and although he can certainly give up position, he makes up for it."

"Where he excels is off the ball (defensively). He moves well, he has good footwork, and not only does he make plays but he takes away plays," Reamer added.

He may be a work in progress, but with his size, mobility, length, and defensive ability, Johnson figures in the plans for many coaches.

He should have no problem starting for his varsity team this season. Or any other season.

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