Scout three-star wing pledges verbal to Vols

Tennessee gains a commitment from a rangy three-star wing with big upside.

Jalen Johnson officially visited Tennessee the weekend of Oct. 3. Exactly one week after leaving Knoxville to go back home to High Point, North Carolina, the Scout three-star forward pledged his commitment to come back as a part of Rick Barnes’ team.

Johnson gave his verbal commitment to the Vols Sunday, adding a second piece to Barnes’ 2016 class alongside point guard Jordan Bone and solidifying a nice recruiting win for a staff preparing for its first season at Tennessee.

“I just liked coach Barnes,” Johnson told InsideTennessee. “I liked the environment that they have, the campus and everything. Rick Barnes is a good coach and it’s close to home. That was big in the decision-making.”

Assisstant coach Desmond Oliver took the reins on the 6-foot-5, 165-pound prospect’s recruitment for the Vols. Oliver’s strong relationship with his newest commit helped Tennessee land Johnson over Clemson, Miami, Providence, and others.

“He really just talked about what kind of guy coach Barnes was and told me how he would envision me at Tennessee,” Johnson said. “(He told me) about the environment there and the basketball community. He told me there was really a need and a want for my position.”

The battle for Johnson’s talents was eventually whittled down to Providence and Tennessee, with both schools standing firmly in the mix until the very end. 

“I really liked Providence as well,” he said. “Tennessee I liked a lot as well when I went to visit them, so it was really tough. I really liked Providence, but I think Tennessee was ultimately better because it was closer to home, along with all the other reasons as well.”

The Vols now have a verbal pledge from an explosive wing who excels in transition and boasts the ability to drain open looks from behind the arc while also priding himself on finishing around the rim. 

“They liked my shooting and athleticism,” Johnson said. “They said they didn’t really have too many guys who bring all those things to the table in one player.”

Johnson spoke with current Tennessee forwards Derek Reese and Admiral Schofield on his visit and said he enjoyed talking with two players currently in the program to gain a better understanding of his future team. 

When asked if there was one central element that drew him to Knoxville above all else, the southpaw didn’t hesitate in his response. Many factors surrounding the Vols’ basketball program played a part in his commitment to Tennessee, but it was those who fill Thompson-Bowling Arena on game days that sealed the deal.

“The fan base,” Johnson said. “The facilities were really nice too, like really, really good. But I like the fan base and just playing in that atmosphere. I feel like that will be real fun to do.”

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