Johnson Has Things to Consider

Nick Johnson, the 6-2 combo guard from Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland, the #17-ranked player in the 2011 class nationally, recently talked about an unofficial visit to ASU, potentially leaving Arizona for his junior season, and the four schools that are most likely his leaders...

A version of this story originally appeared on DevilsDigest.com.


Nick Johnson, the combo guard from Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland, who was recently ranked the #17th prospect in the nation for 2011 by Scout.com,  told DevilsDigest.com about his recent unofficial visit to ASU.

He said: "They took me to places where the normal college student would go. Until now I have only seen the basketball stuff and today I saw a lot of other things too. They took me to the new dorms and I've never been there. There were amazing. My mom said that the dorms she used to live in were nothing like these. My feelings towards Arizona State were already strong, but this visit was good because I got to talk to the coaches a lot more. I have a great relationship with them and it's growing even more."

As a sophomore, the 6-3 185-pound guard averaged 14.9 ppg 5.2 rpg 3.3 apg for the Hawks who finished 29-4 and lost to Phoenix St. Mary's in the 5A1 state finals. Johnson's backcourt teammate, Matt Carlino was also a very big part in Highland's success. Unfortunately this dynamic duo won't share the same court this coming season.

Carlino, who committed to the University of Indiana, will start his acclimation with the Hoosiers this fall as he and his father Mark, who was Highland's head coach, will move to a Bloomington high school. "It was a big surprise to me," Johnson admitted. "I was under the impression that he was staying here. But I wish him all the best."

As a result, Johnson is evaluating his options concerning his choice of a high school. "I had no contact with any out-of-state schools," he said. "I can't say I'm definitely staying with Highland, but let's just say it's up in the air. If I'm not staying with Highland I'm definitely going out of state."

In terms of moving and playing away from his native Arizona, Johnson said, "I played a lot with AAU teams all around the country, so I think it should be an easy high school transition for me. I know a lot of players around the country and that helps a lot."

Johnson acknowledged that he naturally won't be a regular at ASU home games if he did leave Highland, but stated, "I don't think that my recruitment with ASU will get that affected."

Aside from the Sun Devils, Johnson named Arizona, UCLA and Virginia Tech as his other top schools who have been recruiting him the hardest. He has offers from all but UCLA. Johnson isn't eligible to take official visits until next year, so his decision won't be imminent.

"If I had to choose today it would probably be one of those four schools," Johnson noted. "But I'm wide open and I hope to get offers from other schools, too."

The guard also sports offers from Gonzaga and Oregon State, and said that schools such as Kentucky, Marquette and Washington have been recruiting him as well.

Johnson started out his prep career at shooting guard, but lately has been playing the point. "Having the ball in my hands forces me to make more plays," Johnson commented. "I really improved my shooting and I'm more aggressive to the basket.

"I'm pretty athletic, but I do need to get stronger."

Johnson's father, Joey Johnson (the brother of late Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns star Dennis Johnson), played for the Sun Devils in the late-'80s, and prior to his ASU career was voted defensive player of the year in the junior college ranks.

As a result, the younger Johnson admitted that he can never get away with not playing hard on both ends of the court with his father in attendance.

"When I get a big defensive match-up I try to shut down my player," Johnson explained. "If I score 30 but also let my man score 30, I'm going to hear about it because it wasn't a good game."

Recent success is one aspect that Johnson said would guide his decision when selecting a school. As a valley resident he has seen the lean years the Sun Devil program has endured earlier this decade, which makes him realize the strides the program has made since and the overall direction they are heading in.

"Most definitely I saw them when they were down," Johnson said, "and now coming into this year they'll be one of the best teams in the Pac-10. That's pretty cool."

Style of play is another factor that will impact Johnson's college selection, and going over game film with the coaches today showed him how he could fit in the Sun Devils' scheme.

"I think I would fit in here pretty good," Johnson said. "They showed me that they're not just a half-court team and that they run up and down and that's a good thing. They also play very good defense – it's not a regular zone defense."

Johnson will lace them up this summer for the Drew Gooden Soldiers AAU club, which will participate in the Peach Jam, and the Desert Duel, among other July tournaments.


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