LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Kenny Payne was hired to be the next head coach of the Louisville men's basketball program, it infused the fanbase with newfound levels of energy that had not been seen in quite some time. This was mainly due to his prowess as a recruiter, and the Class of 2023 - his first full recruiting cycle with Louisville - would be his first chance to replicate the success he had on the recruiting trail as an assistant at Kentucky.
Unfortunately for Payne and his Cardinals, one of his biggest targets in the 2023 cycle will not be coming to Louisville. Castaic (Calif.) Southern California Academy guard A.J. Johnson announced Monday that he has committed to Texas over Louisville, LSU and the professional route.
Not only was the 6-foot-5 and 160-pound point guard ranked as high as the No. 9 prospect in the nation according to Rivals, he was the last remaining 247Sports Composite five-star prospect to come off the board. During his junior year for Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, he put up 16.7 points, 4.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, while also shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
Johnson was originally offered a scholarship from Louisville early in the summer, and when it became apparent late in the summer that No. 1 overall prospect D.J. Wagner would not be coming to Louisville, the focus shifted to Johnson, and the Cardinals seemed like the presumptive leader in the recruitment heading into the fall.
However, Louisville quickly lost a ton of ground in the recruitment to Texas over the last month. This was compounded by the fact that he had to cancel his scheduled to Louisville Live due to a “sickness in the family,” and never rescheduled his official visit.
There's no other way to put it, this is massive blow to Louisville's efforts out on the recruiting trail under Payne and his staff. While it was a struggle for them to land 2022 prospects and transfers this past summer for the current Louisville team, that could mostly be chalked up to lack of available prospects at the time of Payne's hiring and the lingering IARP case.
But now in Payne's first full cycle, and the IARP case having been recently resolved in Louisville's favor, not landing Johnson has been the biggest miss so far under the new regime.
On top of that, with Payne having been somewhat conservative in who he offers in the 2023 class, there are very few remaining options out of high school in this cycle. There are just six uncommitted top-100 prospects left in the Class of 2023, and the only one to hold a Louisville offer is Johnson's current high school teammate, center Isaiah Miranda.
Louisville does have four-star prospects La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere small forward Kaleb Glenn ad Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice wing Curtis Williams Jr. signed in the class, but they will need to hit the portal hard next spring in order to address the current roster imbalances and field a competitive squad in the ACC.
(Photo of A.J. Johnson via Courtside Hoops)
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