Analyst: Keon Johnson is “Ideal Wing” for Rick Barnes

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    (Photo via USA Basketball Junior National Teams)

    When Keon Johnson, the No. 1 player in the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class, committed to the Vols’ men’s basketball team last week, it sent shockwaves through the recruiting world. Johnson’s commitment was a huge indication that things are still rolling along at Tennessee after a historic last couple of seasons.

    One of Johnson’s travel team coaches for Elite Amateur Basketball, former Vol Mark Griffin, said that Johnson has the ability to be the Vols’ No. 1 defender as soon as he steps foot on the court as a true freshman. He’s not the only one predicting a big impact from Johnson as soon as he joins Tennessee’s team, though.

    Analysts over at Rivals.com held a roundtable discussion over the weekend about the latest events in the basketball recruiting world. The three writers — Corey Evans, Dan McDonald, and Russ Wood — were asked which recent commit could make the biggest impact on their respective team next season.

    Two of those analysts, McDonald and Evans, said Johnson is their pick.

    “The easy answer to this question would be Evan Mobley to USC, but I’m not taking the easy way out here. I’m going to say Keon Johnson at Tennessee,” McDonald said. “Rick Barnes has the Vols rolling with commitments already in from Johnson and Corey Walker with the possibility of Jaden Springer joining them in Knoxville. Johnson will make a big difference early at Tennessee.”

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    Right now, the Vols have a strong duo of Johnson and Corey Walker committed to them in their 2020 recruiting class. Both players are ranked inside the top-40 overall prospects in the 247Sports Composite rankings, and Johnson’s commitment vaulted Tennessee’s 2020 class to No. 5 in the entire country.

    And Tennessee isn’t done yet.

    As McDonald mentioned, the Vols are positioned well with five-star guard Jaden Springer, and Tennessee is also in a good spot with four-star top-100 power forward PJ Hall and top-150 center Dyland Cardwell. The Vols are also a major player for 2021 point guard Cam Hayes, and there’s a good chance Hayes reclassifies to the 2020 class at some point.

    But as for Keon Johnson himself, McDonald wasn’t the only Rivals analyst who thinks he’ll have an immediate impact at Tennessee.

    “Dan couldn’t have said it any better; while Mobley is going to have a great say as to how good USC will be during his likely lone year in college, what Johnson will mean for Tennessee should not be underestimated,” Corey Evans stated. “He is the ideal wing for Barnes: a hungry, quick-twitch competitor that can complete practically whatever task is asked of him.

    “The Vols will take a step back this season but once Johnson arrives and if Josiah James is still enrolled, along with Walker in the frontcourt, Tennessee could be quite the out in March thanks to the all-encompassing abilities that the top-35 wing presents on both ends of the floor.”

    It’s worth noting that both analysts picked Johnson over Evan Mobley, a five-star prospect and No. 1 center in the 2020 class according to Rivals. It’s also worth pointing out that Evans has been on record recently stating that there’s a very strong possibility that Johnson gets bumped to a five-star in the next rankings update on Rivals.

    If Johnson is bumped to five-star status and ultimately signs with the Vols, it would mark the first time in the modern recruiting era that Tennessee has signed a five-star in back-to-back recruiting classes according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Josiah Jordan-James signed with the Vols in the 2019 class as the No. 21 overall prospect in the composite rankings, and Johnson could very likely be in that same range.

    There’s also a chance Tennessee signs multiple five-stars in their 2020 class, which would be a first in school history. The Vols have never brought in more than one five-star in a single class since recruiting rankings really started taking shape in 2003. In fact, Tennessee’s men’s basketball program has only ever signed four five-star players in that span (Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, Robert Hubbs III, and Josiah Jordan-James).

    Expectations are already very high for Keon Johnson, but only time will tell if he has what it takes to live up to them at Tennessee. It’s clear, however, that those who have watched him play believe he’s one of the best prospects in the entire 2020 cycle.



    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.

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