Top recruit Johnson commits to Minnesota

The local recruit had offers from UCLA and Michigan State, among others.

Jack Satzinger

Highly touted basketball recruit Jarvis Johnson committed to the Gophers on Friday to give Minnesota its first marquee local recruit in the Richard Pitino era.

Johnson, who wielded offers from UCLA, Michigan State, Wisconsin and more, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play close to home for the Gophers’ budding head coach.

“My family’s the most important thing to me on this earth,” Johnson said. “I gave much thought and time into my college decision, but in the end, I realized it was important to come back to where I started the process.”

Johnson joins Kevin Dorsey, Jonathan Nwankwo and Dupree McBrayer to likely fill out the Gophers’ 2015 class.

Over the summer, Pitino said he was building stronger ties with recruits in his second season at Minnesota. Assembling a full and talented class of players by mid-September is proof of that. 

Johnson has had success at DeLaSalle High School, where he’ll try to win a fourth consecutive state championship this spring. After that, Johnson will likely spend ample time in the weight room to prepare himself for the physical demands of Big Ten play.

“I know what it takes to go to East Lansing and win or go to Columbus, go to Ann Arbor. You can’t go in there without your body being at an apex level,” said Johnson’s high school coach, Dave Thorson. “He’s not weak, obviously, but I’m talking about being a freshman in the Big Ten and being able to handle the sort of physical play he’ll see.”

Despite being listed at 6 feet 1 inch, Johnson can finish at the rim with ease, often dunking on taller defenders. But Johnson is also listed below 180 pounds on some sites and will need to bulk up if he’ll be an impact player right away, Thorson said.

Johnson could have the opportunity to earn big minutes right out of the gate, with Minnesota’s senior backcourt of Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu likely gone when he gets to campus. The Gophers have two other point guards, Nate Mason (class of 2014) and Kevin Dorsey (class of 2015), with whom Johnson will likely share playing time.

Gophers assistant coach Ben Johnson, who played at DeLaSalle and Minnesota, likely had a big hand in landing Jarvis Johnson.

“I talk to Ben Johnson every day,” Thorson said. “He’s one of my best friends. … He’s going to be a Division I head coach someday.”

But for Jarvis Johnson, playing for a program that appears to be on the rise in front of his family was the biggest factor in his decision.

“It came down to just knowing that these four here can come to any game that they want,” Johnson said, referencing his brother, sister and parents seated next to him. “I can’t wait to work with the coaches and teammates to bring a championship back to the ‘U.’”