Florida and Syracuse have wreaked havoc on the recruiting trail over the last several months, and the best is yet to come for at least one of these two schools.
A high-ranking recruiting source tells Busting Brackets that Florida and Syracuse are the top two favorites to land blue chip center Dakari Johnson. Johnson, a heralded pivot who reclassified up to the Class of 2013 on Monday, is also drawing heavy interest from Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio State.
An ex-teammate of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ), Johnson transferred to Montverde Academy (FL) in the summer of 2011 to reunite with Kevin Boyle, the former St. Patrick head coach who left for the same position at Montverde. Johnson had to sit out last season at the Florida-based basketball powerhouse in accordance with high school transfer rules.
At Florida, Johnson would have the opportunity to start from day one alongside fellow 5-star recruit Chris Walker, one of the top senior power forwards in high school basketball. With Johnson having lived in Florida for the last 14 months, UF also offers familiarity and the close-to-home factor. Set to lose three letter-winning seniors as well as junior Patric Young (to the NBA), the Gators have the necessary scholarships to take on both Johnson and Julius Randle, the top power forward in high school basketball who has Florida high on his list.
Syracuse, meanwhile, has served as a hotbed of frontcourt talent over the last several years. A New York City native, Johnson has bandied about the idea of revisiting his roots and representing the school marketed as New York’s college team.
Working against the Orange, however, is a scholarship crunch exacerbated by Johnson moving up into the 2013 class. Barring a transfer or early exit to the NBA—C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams would be the two most likely candidates—Syracuse has just one available scholarship remaining, which will likely be swallowed up by New Jersey forward Tyler Roberson within the next week.
If Roberson commits to Syracuse before the spring, as expected, SU would need one of the eight scholarship players expected back on next year’s team to leave, or one of its Class of 2013 pledges to rescind his verbal commitment. Jim Boeheim’s staff has recruited Johnson the longest and hardest of anyone involved in the recruitment, per my source, but the Orange had been figuring on Johnson entering college in the fall of 2014, not 2013.
Asked to handicap a favorite in this recruitment so far, and the recruiting source said, “Florida and Syracuse are neck and neck,” referring to Johnson’s standpoint, but that “Florida probably has the edge” thanks to its superior scholarship situation.
Johnson was a member of USA Basketball’s U17 world championship team last summer, but an injury suffered in that tournament held him out of action for most of the July evaluation period. A strong low-post scorer and active rebounder, Johnson has the skill to become a go-to scoring option in college and possesses enough athleticism to run the floor in an up-tempo system.
Johnson is the third high school junior to reclassify into the senior class in recent weeks, joining Andrew Wiggins, the top prospect in high school basketball, and Noah Vonleh, a rangy power forward. Prized swingman Wayne Selden, another ex-member of the 2014 class, also reclassified back in June.
Johnson is on track for a spring decision. Any closure to this recruitment before that time would be, per the source, “unexpected.”