Mitch Johnson Is Taking His Time

How spoiled have we become, with the quick conclusions to so many basketball recruitments these days? For a path somewhat less traveled, we look to Seattle (<i>Wash.</i>) point guard Mitch Johnson. He has taken trips to his favorite schools, but where and when that leads him remains a greater mystery than his circumstances and conventional logic might indicate...

After a spring of sprinting recruiting activity for Stanford Basketball, the Mitch Johnson Saga is somewhat of an outlier. We saw Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill and Bobby Frasor all make college decisions just within a few weeks of their official visits. Jordan Wilkes made a hurried effort to the tune of two late-June unofficial visits to the Bay Area, with the apparent goal of an imminent ending. Like the four others, Johnson did the work to complete his Stanford admissions application and garnered an early acceptance. His official visit to The Farm followed quickly thereafter, but a full month later the coaches and fans of several schools await some movement toward his decision.

The Stanford official visit was not his only recruiting trip that he has taken of late. He took a local look at the Washington campus with a pair of his AAU teammates: Jon Brockman and Martell Webster. Much has been made in Husky Country about the in-state trio making a possible group commitment to Lorenzo Romar, which is an intriguing but not necessarily driving prospect for Johnson.

"It could be really exciting. Three guys from the same AAU team - not many people have done that," the point guard opines. "But we each have to make a decision for ourselves. That's only fair. Somebody could get hurt or decide to transfer out. Knock on wood - you hope that doesn't happen to any of us wherever we go, of course. I guess you could say we would just have a good incoming class if we wound up playing together."

As to the visit itself, Johnson learned more than you might expect. Though a local, he had done little more on the UW campus beyond watching games previously.

"I saw the campus and saw the coaching staff. It was a good experience," he begins. "I've lived in Seattle but never really seen the campus - seen what life there is like. I was actually surprised how big the campus was. It's not as big as Stanford, but it was bigger than I thought."

Moving backward in time, Johnson next revisits for us his one official trip, which brought him for the first time to The Farm. A similar focus was placed on the campus and the coaches, though this recruit's first thoughts race to a facility renovation.

"We walked all over campus - it was just huge - and saw numerous facilities. We went by the new arena, and it looked very nice. It looks like it's going to be the real deal," he comments on the Maples Pavilion renovation. "I met a lot of players and coaches and got to know them. That's what I'm looking for. I want to find where I fit in, but also be successful. Stanford - it's an environment for success. Success is built in with people everywhere who are successful. Stanford as a school - it's amazing. It sells itself."

"I thought the coaching staff was excellent, too. They are a good fit because they are all different. And none of them are a 'yes man' to the head coach. I got to know them all," Johnson continues. "It was a great visit. I was definitely blown away."

Though one visit was an official trip while the other was unofficial, the obvious question on everyone's mind is how the two experiences and schools stack up against each other. Unfortunately, this floor general is keeping that campaign of this battle in the future, or at least keeping the public revelation in the future.

"I want to sit down and look at Place A and Place B, and all the positives and negatives for both, and list them out," Johnson maintains. "But that will come a little further down the road. Right now, I choose not to compare the visits or schools. I'll do that after July."

To help muddy the waters further, the rising senior at O'Dea High School challenges the commonly held notion that his recruitment is a simple Stanford-Washintgon battle. He puts UCLA up at that level, despite weaker interest from Ben Howland and the Bru-Crew thus far. It is noteworthy that the Seattle recruit spent the early part of last week in Westwood camping at UCLA.

"Those are definitely my top three, as of right now," Johnson declares. "I have had more opportunities to talk with [Stanford and Washington], but that just means I have had more to learn about UCLA. There are some other schools I've been in contact with, though not as active as the other three: like Indiana and Arizona."

On the outside, the Mitch Johnson recruitment looked like an entity with discernable direction and interpretation. We learn instead that he is still very much in exploration mode, with no hurry to reach a conclusion. This week he is off on his own in Indianapolis at the Nike All-American Camp, though soon thereafter he will rejoin his Friends of Hoop teammates at the Peach Jam on July 12. After that his AAU team travels to Las Vegas for The Main Event on the 22nd, which feeds right into a wrap-up tournament in Los Angeles.

"After all that, then I will sit down and think more about recruiting," he allows. "To really sit down and really compare my schools - that's when I'm ready to be committing. I'm just getting to know people right now. I want to make sure when I make my decision. I want to make very sure I never look back."

Johnson either won't tip his hand, or he has no hand to tip right now. A new calling period is underway that allows schools to make their pitches to him, and perhaps we will learn in a few weeks that he has a new top three - perhaps a solid five favorites too close to call. Prevailing logic still says that the Card and Huskies are the main players, though we must wait until August to see how they shake out. For now, the Seattle standout has just this to say about Stanford's chances:

"From my end, they have as good a chance as anybody else," Johnson politically pontificates. "They are the only place I took an official. That says a lot. Their visit only increased their chances."


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