According to Eric Bossi, the National Basketball Director at 247 Sports, the five-star highly touted combo guard AJ Johnson will be announcing his college decision this coming Monday, November 21, 2022.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, recently announced his move from Donda Academy to Southern California Academy where he joined fellow Louisville prospect four-star Isaiah Miranda. For those that don’t know, Donda Academy is Kanye West’s privately owned school in Simi Valley, California. The academy was shut down following West’s anti-semitic comments in the media. Not only was Donda Academy a collateral casualty in this process, but his partnership with Adidas also collapsed.
The fact that Donda Academy closing their doors and their basketball program forced Johnson to join forces with Isaiah Miranda at Southern California Academy exhilerated the Louisville basketball community.
Johnson and Miranda are the only two Louisville prospects left in the 2023 Recruiting Class with scholarship offers that have not announced their college decision yet and are open to the idea of joining the Louisville program.
Other notable prospects who received offers are five-star point guard Caleb Foster who committed to Duke on September 16, 2021, four-star shooting guard George Washington III who signed with Michigan earlier this month on November 1, 2022, five-star forward Andrej Stojakovic who committed to Stanford on November 7, 2022, and five-star combo guard DJ Wagner who committed to Kentucky just a few days ago.
With all of these notable names off the board, the list of possible recruits coming to Louisville continues to get smaller and smaller. Johnson is the next one on the list to pledge his allegiance to a collegiate program. If Louisville can land Johnson, the stigma around Coach Kenny Payne not being able to recruit talent would begin to be lifted and a new hope would dawn on this program.
Louisville needs AJ Johnson for more than just his talent on the basketball court. The basketball program has been through a five year purgatory in which the IARP lapsed in providing a punishment ruling for the scandal surrounding Brian Bowen II. As a result of this, Louisville let Athletic Director Tom Jurich and Men’s Head Basketball Coach Rick Pitino go assuming they had involvement in the situation or failed to handle the situation properly.
Two monumental losses to the program, a five year purgatory at the hands of the IARP, and another scandal during Head Coach Chris Mack’s tenure has created an aura around the Louisville program that is slowly starting to fade away.
Kenny Payne is still in the process of establishing his culture in the Louisville program and once the coaching staff and players begin playing on the same page, then the Cardinals will be off and running. Adding Johnson’s commitment to this equation would solidify the roster for next season and his arrival in the program would come a year into Coach Payne’s tenure on the sidelines. Coach Payne would be in a position where some of the early rust would start to wear off.
Reports have indicated Louisville’s biggest opponent in the AJ Johnson Sweepstakes is Chris Beard and the University of Texas. Chris Beard has already seemed to establish his culture and taken the Longhorns back to premier success. Kenny Payne is laying the groundwork of his culture and he is in the process of building this Louisville program back to the dominant force in college basketball that it once was.
These are two very different situations for Johnson to enter into for his collegiate career, but if he does decide to don the Cardinal threads, his commitment to join the team would quiet a lot of noise surrounding the program.