basketball Edit

Vols land in-state prize in Johnson

SHELBYVILLE, TN -- Tennessee closed the deal on a recruitment the Vols have been working for more than two years on when Keon Johnson stood up in front of his hometown at his family’s church and made a verbal commitment to Tennessee.

The 6-foot-5 Johnson has risen from a small town recruit who plays at the tiny Webb School in Bellbuckle, Tn, someone who few people outside of the midstate area knew much about following his sophomore season into a player who now stands on the cusp of five-star status following a scintillating performance at last month’s USA Basketball Training Camp at the USA Basketball training center in Colorado Springs, Co.

Johnson is now the second building block of what’s shaping up to be a monster recruiting class for Rick Barnes and his staff. Johnson is currently rated the No. 34 player in the country, but after his play last month he looks poised for a bump into the top-25. He joins five-star forward Corey Walker, currently rated the No. 24 player in the class on the Vols’ present commitment list.

In Johnson the Vols are getting someone with all the tools to be an elite two-way player. A long, rangy wing Johnson will immediately become one of the top athletes in the SEC the moment he steps on campus to begin his Tennessee career.

He’s got the blend of length, athleticism and lateral quickness to be an elite perimeter defender from day one, capable of guarding all three perimeter spots and some power forwards. Johnson excels at getting into passing lanes, can deny his assignment the ball with his length and quickness and challenges shots at a high level.

Offensively Johnson’s shot is much improved from a year ago but refining his perimeter jumper is the final ingredient that will make him a nightmare of an offensive threat. He’s a monster in the open floor and attacks the glass with efficiency and effectiveness that belies his size and frame.

Johnson is also a cultural fit for Rick Barnes’ program, one which emphasizes chemistry both on and off the floor. He’s made close to a dozen visits in total to Tennessee’s campus over the past three years, something that’s given him an intimate knowledge of what Barnes, his players, the staff and the program are all about.

That level of contact has also given the staff a firm indication of what kind of player they’re getting in Johnson both on and off the floor. Fit is important in the current era of Tennessee basketball, and Johnson checks all the boxes for what Barnes and this staff look for in recruiting.

Johnson becomes the highest rated in-state prospect to pick the Vols since Robert Hubbs selected Tennessee over Duke in 2013 and Jarnell Stokes did so in 2012. Those two are the only in-state five-star players to sign with Tennessee this century.

Johnson had tons of college options heading into the summer before narrowing his list to Tennessee, Ohio State and defending national champion Virginia.

In the end proximity to home combined with cultural fit and that Barnes has proven that you can compete for national championships in Knoxville led to Tennessee closing the deal on a must-get target in the 2020 class.