Texas picked up another prominent basketball commitment Monday when five-star guard AJ Johnson announced his intention to play for the Longhorns. Ranked the No. 14 overall prospect in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports, Johnson picked Texas over Louisville, LSU and professional options.
Johnson is regarded as a combo guard out of Southern California Academy in Castaic, California. He transferred to the school recently after he was enrolled at Donda Academy, which closed after the school's founder Ye, formerly Kanye West, came under fire for offensive remarks. Johnson was also part of the this year's USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp.
At 6-foot-5, Johnson's size and length should be an asset at the next level as he plays on or off the ball for coach Chris Beard and the Longhorns. Here is a deeper look at Johnson's game from 247Sports director of scouting Adam Finkelstein:
Johnson is an emerging big guard who is both in the midst of a rapid ascension and yet still possesses a wealth of untapped potential. There are tools in place to check all the boxes when it comes to positional size, length, athleticism, playmaking, and skill. He's 6-foot-5-plus with long arms and legs. He plays with pace, is exceptionally fluid in the open floor, and virtually glides with the ball at times. He shoots a good ball from the outside and has a tight handle with both combination moves and stop-and-go change of pace.
Chris Beard is recruiting well
With Johnson's commitment, Texas' 2023 recruiting class jumps from No. 58 to No. 26 in the 247Sports Team Rankings. Johnson joins 6-8 power forward Ron Holland in the class. Holland is also a five-star prospect, which makes the Longhorns' class a high-end haul even though it's light on volume. Beard also landed two five-star commitments from the Class of 2022 in Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris, making Texas a destination for top transfers early in his tenure.
While announcing his commitment to Texas, Johnson praised Beard and the Longhorns coaching staff.
"I just felt really comfortable with the decision because I feel really comfortable with the coaching staff," Johnson told 247Sports. "The people who are there, I can see myself being around them every day.
"I feel like our relationship is one of the best I had out of all the head coaches. We just talk a lot and he teaches me a lot so I felt the most comfortable with (Beard) being my head coach."
Last off the board
Johnson was the final uncommitted five-star prospect in the Class of 2023, per the 247Sports rankings. While a handful of top-100 prospects have not yet committed, they are all ranked No. 30 or lower. In essence, the high-stakes portion of this recruiting cycle is over for now. But as has become the annual tradition in the sport, some players from the Class of 2024 figure to reclassify to the Class of 2023 in the months ahead and announce their college choices, which could have an impact on both the team and player rankings for the class.
Room for improvement
Though Johnson looks like the type of player who can make an impact as a true freshman, his game remains a work in progress. Finkelstein touched on his areas for improvement in his scouting report.
Sometimes, he can dance with his handle a little too much, instead of getting directly to his line. Johnson is also still working to find the balance between being aggressive with his own attack and creating for those around him, as he tends to get passive instead of staying in attack mode and reading where the help is coming from. Most of all, he needs to build up his body as he's very lean and often unable to play through contact right now. That can impact him on both ends of the floor, but particularly as a finisher. Simultaneously, his overall motor, especially on the defensive end of the floor, and willingness to be physical needs to be more consistent. Overall though, all the tools are in place for him to be one of the best players, not just guards, in the national class. It's just a matter of him continuing to take the next steps with the maturation of his game and body.