Upon elevating to the head coaching job in the spring, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard has delivered a message on the recruiting trail – aggressively recruit the top in-state and Midwest players to the program. It’s part of the reason why the Badgers are just getting started with 2020 point guard Jalen Johnson.
The 6-5, 170-pound incoming freshman at nearby Sun Prairie HS had made the short drive to Wisconsin’s campus before for home basketball games but hadn’t been invited for a football game. He got that experience Saturday for Wisconsin’s game against Georgia State.
“The atmosphere,” Johnson said when asked about the big difference between the two events. “The student section, with how many people showed up, caught my attention. The rowdiness, the fans going crazy about everything, it was fun to be around.”
In the conversation to be the state’s top ranked player in 2020, Johnson said the Wisconsin staff has been touch with him and his family since mid-July. With Wisconsin typically taking a true point guard every two years, the Badgers would be in the market for one in Johnson’s class.
“They have a great plan with how they treat their players,” Johnson said, saying Iowa is the only other school to reach out to him. “Coach Gard said that they’ll be at a lot of games this season and catch a few open gyms. They want this whole recruiting process to go slow for me. They don’t want me to rush through my high school career.”
The Wisconsin Playground Warriors have supplied ample talent to the Badgers in recent history, including 2017 combo guard Kobe King and 2018 combo guard Tyler Herro. Having played with and against the two Wisconsin commits over the summer, Johnson has seen an uptick with the confidence in his game.
“Playing with those guys helps me better my game,” Johnson said. “They are great at their positions. Playing alongside them was nice and gave me a lot of good confidence.”
While his recruiting is in the infancy, Johnson admits that playing close to home would be a dream scenario.
“Wisconsin has always been that school that I loved watching on TV and going to the games,” Johnson said. “It’s always been a top school of mine.”