It seems the 2009 prep basketball class is void of possible solutions for the Ohio State men's basketball program. Head coach Thad Matta may have a solution of his own.
Sources have told BuckeyeSports.com that Johnson, a 6-7 forward that averaged 12.4 points and 4.0 rebounds this past season, may be favoring the Buckeyes out of an initial list that included Arkansas, Connecticut, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia in addition to Ohio State.
In the Saturday addition of The Columbus Dispatch, Johnson has reportedly committed a visit to Columbus sometime in the next few weeks. According to the report, Johnson now has permission to speak with 17 schools.
Well-traveled in high school, Johnson graduated from Corsicana High School in Texas – about 30 miles south of Dallas. Johnson also had stops at The Patterson School, a well-known Preparatory program in Charlotte and Eldon Academy in Michigan.
A high-flyer that flew by low on the radar in arriving to Iowa State, Johnson chose the Cyclones over Charlotte and San Diego State among others in 2006. He's known for his acrobatic dunks and athletic prowess.
"He's a freakish athlete," then ISU grad assistant Erik Crawford told Scout's Iowa State affiliate, Cyclone Sports Report two summers ago, "just an absolute freak."
In a 2006-07 contest against the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio State witnessed that first-hand.
As the second-leading scorer for Iowa State, Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds against the eventual Nation Runners-up. For the season, Johnson totaled 12.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and a block per game while shooting 45 percent from the field.
Johnson, who would have to sit out the 2008-09 season per NCAA transfer guidelines, would have two years of eligibility remaining. Ohio State has been seeking likely one player for the 2009 recruiting class, and Johnson could wind up gaining that available scholarship. It's also possible Ohio State could take a high school player in addition to Johnson, especially if JUCO forward Nicola Kecman is ruled ineligible by the NCAA for having played for a professional club in Europe.
Thanks in part to a late growth-spurt Johnson was somewhat of a late-bloomer. Johnson's perimeter skills, notably shooting, were the cause for concern until growing a few inches before and during his final year in high school.
Because of university protocol, Johnson is unable to seek a transfer to a Big 12 university or any school already listed on the men's basketball schedule for Iowa State the next few seasons.
Having never really cited a reason for transferring, Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott said in mid-May that he learned of the transfer through a third party. Johnson had already packed up and left, causing a bit of controversy as to how he handled the situation.
"Shocked was the best way to describe my reaction," McDermott told the Iowa State daily on May 20.
This past season, Johnson's statistics were influenced heavily by an injury to his foot. Ultimately, Johnson was forced to have surgery in April on a lingering stress fracture.
McDermott flew to Corsica to meet with Johnson and his mother last month, hoping to change Johnson's mind but returned to Ames, Iowa with no such luck. Johnson has reportedly spent the past week or two gathering information and speaking with coaches of various schools. A little over a week ago, Johnson had told The Dispatch that he had not yet spoken with Matta after playing phone tag.
Summer classes begin at Ohio State on Monday, meaning Johnson would likely have to enroll in the fall if he selects the Buckeyes. He compares favorably to former Buckeye and Bowling Green transfer Ron Lewis, who was Matta's first recruit after leaving the Falcons as a 17-point-per-game scorer as a sophomore.
Johnson could be part of an imposing athletic rotation in 2009 that could include Anthony Crater, Walter Offutt, Jeremie Simmons, Evan Turner, William Buford, David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale. The Buckeyes hope that incoming 7-footer B.J. Mullens also sticks around for his sophomore season.