UNC Basketball Recruiting: Are the Tar Heels the Favorite to Land Robert Johnson?


One of the fastest rising young talents among the 2014 NCAA basketball recruits is Robert Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard, who plays at Benedictine College Prep in Richmond, Va.  According to ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com, Johnson is a four-star prospect.

Jul 18, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Team USA East player Robert Johnson (8) shoots the ball against Team France during the Nike Global Challenge at Trinity University in Washington, DC. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson received his first scholarship offer from UNC-Greensboro’s Wes Miller last year, but has steadily raised his stock over the summer. With his play at NBPA Camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy and most recently at the Nike Peach Jam, Johnson has been gaining a lot of interest from major college programs. He already has several scholarship offers and has narrowed his current list to seven schools: Florida State, Georgetown, Indiana, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia. Louisville has also expressed interest in the combo guard.

He made his first scheduled official visit to the Indiana campus this weekend to check out the Hoosier basketball program. Indiana and North Carolina are considered the two frontrunners to acquire his services.

Though Indiana didn’t really express interest until late last month, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson has been familiar with the Virginia guard and his family for quite some time.

“Coach Johnson was actually recruiting him when he was at Towson,” according to Johnson’s father, Robert Sr. “Then when he made the transition over to Indiana, Robert was actually playing for the D.C. Assault at the time and he watched him then. He’s been kind of tracking him.” Indiana really stepped up their interest in Johnson when Hoosiers coach Tom Crean got to see Johnson average 20.2 points and shoot 46.2 percent on 3-pointers at the Nike Peach Jam.

The Hoosiers pulled out all stops this past weekend to try to impress Johnson. Johnson was escorted by his AAU coach, the legendary Boo Williams, who also happens to be the uncle of IU freshman guard Troy Williams. In addition, there were several “unofficial” visits from other recruits this weekend such as James Blackmon, the standout Class of 2014 guard who created a recruiting shock wave earlier this month when he de-committed from IU after three years, New York shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead (rated No. 17 in the Class of 2014), and New Jersey shooting guard Malachi Richardson (No. 19 in the Class of 2015).

Victor Olidapo, the number two overall pick in this year’s NBA draft for the Orlando Magic, was also in Bloomington to help Crean with his ProCamp. So was another former Hoosier standout in D.J. White, who has played with three NBA teams, most recently the Boston Celtics.

In an article on ESPN.com, the younger Johnson said that he could commit on a visit if “I find something I really like, I won’t wait. I could commit on a visit.” As of this writing, there is no word that he committed to the Hoosiers. This leaves the door open for a visit to Chapel Hill in the near future.

What exactly is Johnson looking for in a collegiate program?

As a parent, Johnson Sr. has a specific list of criteria that he’ll be looking for as he accompanies his son on visits.

“Some of the main things I know I’ll look at it is first, as a parent, the things we’ve instilled in Robert, the foundation that we’ve laid, I want somebody to carry on what we started and assist him in becoming a well grounded young man,” he said. ”Education wise, I want to see the graduation rate, how many guys graduate on the basketball team. What are they doing after basketball? Those are some of the things I want to see. The culture, the environment and will he fit in the environment?”

According to a March Madness graduation rate “bracket” by the Washington Post, Carolina would have the advantage in that department, graduating 89% compared to Indiana’s 47%, based on the percentage of basketball players who enrolled during the 2004-2005 academic year and earned a degree within six years.

When Indiana offered Johnson a scholarship in mid-July, he told Inside the Hall that the program’s recent success in getting players to the NBA was “definitely appealing.”

The Hoosiers had two of the top four picks in June’s NBA Draft with Cody Zeller going No. 4 to Charlotte and Oladipo going No. 2 overall to Orlando. The IU presence at the top of the lottery also impressed Johnson Sr.

“That’s big, that’s big. The player development is huge. I watch Indiana and (Victor) Oladipo, his freshman year, was really under the radar,” he said. “He wasn’t a great shooter and he’s pretty much always had a good motor, but I think Tom Crean and the coaching staff did a great job with allowing him to keep the motor but they worked on the other facets of his game. I watched how they developed him and it’s great.”

The Tar Heels have a long history of preparing players for the NBA as well so this should not hinder their chances.

Robert Johnson’s Crystal Ball Predictions by 247Sports has went from a 70/30 Carolina advantage last week down to 60/40 after Johnson’s recent visit to Bloomington.

But the Tar Heels may be holding the winning hand to persuade Johnson to wear the Carolina blue throughout his college career. First of all, Tar Heel alum Ed Davis played at Benedictine, Johnson’s current school.

More importantly, they already have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for 2014, including three top 15 prospects; Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson, and Joel Berry. If they can add a shooting guard like Johnson, they may just have the makings of an NCAA Championship. And after all, isn’t that the ultimate prize?