It's too early in the recruiting process to pay too much attention to the class of 2009, but that doesn't mean it's too early to learn more about some of the prominent names.
One of those names you'll likely hear a lot about over the next year is 6-7, 180-pound Noel Johnson of Fayette County High School in Fayettville, Ga.
Johnson is listed by ScoutHoops.com as an "early top 10" candidate. As a talented wing prospect, many top programs have already been in the Fayette County gymnasium to see Johnson play and many more are likely to make the trip to the school that is about a half hour south of Atlanta.
Last week, Scout.com caught up with Andre Flynn, the new high school coach of Johnson and the head man at Fayette County. We touched on Johnson's background, his game and also his early recruitment.
Kyle Lamb: Talk about Noel and the kind of player he is. Talk about his strengths and weaknesses.
Andre Flynn: "I think his strength is that his basketball IQ is very high for a 15-year old. At 6-7 he can play point guard, our swing, our shooter - in high school he can really play all five positions. He can go inside but he's basically a wing man or a two-man. He also plays the point guard position because he does have great ball-handling skills and he can see the floor. His basketballl IQ for a 15-year old is really amazing. That's what I would say his strengths are."
KL: And what are some of the things to work on as a player right now?
AF: "I think some of the things he'll work on, and remember he's just 15, he's just got to stronger. If he gets stronger and he matures, that's going to come. That's probably the only real thing and he needs to continue to work on his outside shooting. With his 6-7 frame with Noel at 15, just the natural maturing process will make him stronger. If he gets stronger, he will become a lot tougher."
KL: Is he kind of a slasher right now that can also shoot and handle the ball? Is that his game?
AF: "He's a slashing type that can shoot the ball. He's a tremendous passer for his age. He's more of a slasher along the lines of the Rip Hamilton types - the guy from UConn that is a big guard who can shoot it and slash to the basket. He's going to continue to work without the ball which will make him that much tougher."
KL: I've got him listed about 6-7 and 180 pounds now. Is that about accurate?
AF: "That's about accurate. He's about 6-7 and 180."
KL: Talk about where Noel is right now with hearing from colleges and everything. What schools have expressed interest?
AF: "A lot of schools have expressed interest in him - Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Memphis...the list goes on and on. He's one of the most laid-back young men I've ever been around to have so much attention his way. He's very quiet, he's a very personable young man. He's very polite and just a quality young man - moreso than say a basketball player. That's going to be the thing. He's very coachable. That's kind of hard to find players with that much talent that are willing to listen but he's very coachable and he's fitting right into our offense. He's been slowed by an ankle injury, missing one game and played kind of hurt in three games - we've played only eight games. In saying that, he's averaging 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals a game."
KL: You mentioned the laid-back, quiet type of persona. Is that tough for a kid in that position to go through a high-pressure recruiting process where you have all these schools wanting to talk about their programs knowing a kid like that because sooner or later, he's going to have to start saying 'no' to these guys?
AF: "He's been put in this position. His dad and his parents have done a good job with him. They keep him level-headed and he's got a good support group to help him out when the time comes. Right now we're letting him have fun and be a kid. We're not letting the pressure get to him. Have fun you know? Be a kid. When the time comes that will take care of itself. He's playing, he's still learning a new system, a new offense, and if he gets that down he will get make his team better and he's going to get better."
KL: His father played for Wichita State, correct?
AF: "Yes he played for Wichita State."
KL: And his name was Linburt Johnson?
AF: "Yes, Linburt Johnson."
KL: They called him 'Cheese' Johnson I think?
AF: "Yep (laughing)."
KL: I'm curious how he got that nickname.
AF: "Cheese Johnson. I don't know how he got it."
KL: Obviously then, the bloodlines are there for Noel so that has to be a big thing for his future knowing he's got the pedigree, so to speak?
AF: "Most definitely. His dad went through that, how to recruit it coming out of New York. His dad does a good job with him."
KL: You mentioned him playing in a new offense and at a new school, how has he fit into your program thus far?
AF: "He's still learning but he's fit in just perfectly. Once he figures out what best-suits him on offense he's going to be real good. Our defense is about where I thought it would be but our offense is a little behind. Noel is a major piece in that, so once he gets everything down coming from a different system, I think that will make us a lot better."
KL: Have you guys had any college coaches in so far this season to watch Noel?
AF: "Oh yeah, we've had a lot of coaches. Memphis - Coach (John) Calipari has been down, Ohio State has been down, Kentucky has had their people down, Michigan State - Coach (Tom) Izzo has been down twice. Michigan has been in. So he's had a lot of people that have come into the gym. Alabama has been down. Auburn has been down as well. Georgia and Georgia Tech - all those coaches have been in to actually see him play."