AJ Johnson has proved to be one of the craftiest, smartest, and best guards out of the class of 2023. This summer on the adidas 3SSB Circuit, Johnson showed all levels of his game.
Johnson has watched his recruitment blow up this summer and he has earned every offer that he has received. His long frame combined with his skill make him the player that he is.
In this in depth interview Johnson breaks down his recruitment, what he improved on this spring/summer, and his upcoming official visits
Talk about this spring and summer playing with Jalen Green Elite (CA)
AJ Johnson: "I loved it, it was a great experience playing for my big brothers team. Last year I played in the EYBL, but this year was actually like my first year playing on a circuit team."
Green excelled on the 3SSB Circuit. He was the main source of offense for Jalen Green Elite this year, showcasing his unique skill set. His passing is what really caught my eye. Johnson was able to break defenders down, get paint touches, and make some incredible passes to teammates in scoring positions. When scoring the ball, Johnson was hard to stop. His long arms allowed him to finish over defenders and his shooting showed great improvements.
Jalen Green (Houston Rockets Guard), being your big brother, what advice has he given you along the way?
AJ Johnson: "He has told me to keep working hard and keep that dog mentality. He is really hard on staying in the gym."
There are many similarities in both Green and Johnsons game. As we all know Green is one of the best athletes we have watched in recent years in high school basketball. Johnson on the other hand is super athletic, but just not as athletic as his brother. Their game is similar with decision making. Both are great at knowing when to attack or stop on a dime and hit a pull up jumper. They both flourish in transition, getting down hill and scoring on the fly. Johnson has stated that he has worked on and improved his jump shooting abilities so that is another part of their games that could become more similar.
What would you say you improved on the most this spring/summer?
AJ Johnson: "Probably just shooting, I worked on that a lot. Shooting off the dribble, getting to the paint, and obviously getting stronger and staying in the weight room and stuff like that. Also just learning about the game, just watching a lot of basketball more that has helped me a lot."
Who is a player that you try to model your game after the most?
AJ Johnson: " It is kinda a couple, I like to take a little from all of them. A little bit of Ja Morant, Lamelo Ball and the way he plays freely, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and how he slithers to the paint and maneuvers by defenders."
The players Johnson watches and studies for sure have an impact on how he moves and performs on the floor. We have seen over the course of this spring and summer that Johnson's athleticism has improved. Like Ja Morant and the way he finishes through and around defenders we have watched Johnson do this countless times. When talking about Lamelo Ball and how he plays freely, Johnson does the same. Johnson never looks flustered or worried on the court, he lets the game come to him. I believe he plays the most like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They have the same build, both are fluid with dribble series moves, and both play the game with a high IQ.
You watched your recruitment blow up over the past couple of months, what did it feel like having all those schools reach out?
AJ Johnson: "It felt great. I just tried to take it all in you know cause not everyone gets that type of love from college coaches. The fact that I was getting futile calls from college programs was a blessing and I just wanted to embrace it."
How would you describe your game to someone who has never watched you play?
AJ Johnson: "I feel like I bring a winning mentality. Every time I touch the ball I'm going to create a play for myself or somebody else. I play defense and I play hard. I have a lot of IQ, I know the game."
Talk about the recruitment process and how it has been going
AJ Johnson: "It is going great, like I said before it is great getting love from all these college coaches"
Talk about the schools that contact you the most
AJ Johnson: "USC, Louisville, Kansas, LSU, Texas, NC State, Gonzaga, pretty much those right there."
Breakdown on these schools and how they plan to use you in their system
AJ Johnson: " I feel like they see me coming in right away and making an impact. Most of them talk about getting me better and working on my body."
Official visits planned
September 3rd - USC
September 10th - Texas
September 17th - LSU
September 24th - NC State
AJ Johnson: " With Louisville we are still talking about when I am going to go there, I am also trying to get Gonzaga and Kansas in there."
What are you most excited about when you do go on these official visits?
AJ Johnson: "Just seeing how much the school likes you. Just getting a whole bunch of love from the players and the coaching staffs. Taking pictures with the jersey on, just cool stuff like that."
Timetable on when you will cut your list of schools?
AJ Johnson: "I want to try and be committed by December. That is what the goal is commit sometime around then."