J.J. is Dynamite

Taking a Tennessee team predicted to finish fifth in the SEC East to a Division title and NCAA appearance as a No. 2 seed in his first year on the job is an odds defying achievement by Bruce Pearl, but during the current recruiting campaign he has discovered a prospect with a profile that is just as improbable.

What are the chances of finding a 6-foot-8, 215-pound combo forward in the cowboy country of Cheyenne, Wyoming, who is the son of the 1996 world champion kick-boxer and has a 21-0 record in the brutal sport himself?

Did we mention that he was also named MVP of the Nike All-American Camp All-Star Game and is rated one of the top 50 players in America? James Johnson's breakout performance in the Nike Camp (16 points and 10 rebounds in the all-star game) sent his stock into orbit and his cell phone into overload.

One of the first calls to come through was an offer from the Vols. Also jumping into the chase were Baylor, Boston College, Bradley, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington State and Wichita State. (Remember the Shockers?) He is also being pursued by Cincinnati, Kansas and Gonzaga among a long list of others.

If such attractive offers aren't enough to lift Johnson's confidence, his ability to compete against the nation's best basketball prospects certainly did.

"The week went really felt and I felt like I really played well except for maybe one game," Johnson said. "I learn a lot at this camp. You learn how good you are, what you can and can not do when you go up against great competition and how you may be the big dog at your school, but everyone here is a big dog and you can't hold back."

Obviously his sudden success and instant fame haven't gone to Johnson's head. Neither does his martial arts training interfere with basketball. In fact, he incorporates the two to his advantage. For sure he knows how to box out and if he can break boards he can control them. Just like if he can block punches he can block shots. He also has great body control and excellent jumping ability.

"I would say that I do a lot of things well, but I am taking this summer to work on my all-around game," Johnson said. "I can handle the ball pretty well, shoot it pretty good and I am aggressive going to the board."

Johnson also brings the type of size, athleticism and intensity that Coach Pearl seeks for his attacking scheme and full-throttle transition game.

Dave Telep, who is Scout.com's national director of basketball recruiting, had the following to say about Johnson:

"The son of a former world kickboxing champion uses martial arts to train and is presently undefeated (21-0) in matches himself. So, he's got that going for him, which is nice. Meanwhile, on the basketball side, his play here as a big wing hasn't gone unnoticed by the high-majors and he'll join our Top 100 the next time around. How can we leave him out given his stature in the very dangerous sport of kick boxing?"

Johnson also has the versatility to play power forward or on the wing at the next level. He needs to improve is his low-post scoring and perimeter range, but that's not discouraging his suitors. Naturally, after being flooded with offers he's still early in the decision making process.

"I would say that I will either be a small four or a big three in college," Johnson said. "I know there are going to be some more people (schools) getting in. I am interested in anybody right now that is interested in me. I have no short list right now."

Given Pearl's track record, odds are good that Tennessee will be on Johnson's short list.


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