The road back to recovery is complete for Meechie Johnson Jr.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee prematurely ended his sophomore season of high school basketball and wiped out his junior year, but the Ohio State verbal commitment is back to full health.
Now, if only he could get out there and show it. With virtually all levels of sports currently at a standstill, Johnson is sticking with his workouts and awaiting a chance to show off a new body as well as a new game.
“It's been a long journey,” Johnson said in an interview with The Dispatch. “It sucks not to be able to compete against the best players in the country in the (Nike AAU circuit) EYBL, but at the same time it gives me more time to still work on my game and watch a lot more film and study the game.”
Johnson suffered the injury during a district tournament game in March 2019, when he played for Garfield Heights High School. Johnson has since transferred to nearby Willoughby International Academy, where he will finish his prep career before coming to Ohio State in 2021.
The last year of rehabilitating the knee and acclimating to a new school has been tough, Johnson said, but it has helped make him into a different player. It also helps that he's grown 2 more inches and now is 6 feet 3 and around 170 pounds.
“It feels great,” he said. “It's been a year since I've gotten to play, so now being able to actually go up and down and be regular and feel stronger, it feels great that all the hard work paid off and all the time spent in rehab.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had no impact on Johnson's rehabilitation process. Barely five minutes from his home, Johnson's uncle, Sonny Johnson, has a weight room set up inside his house along with a court in his backyard.
So while other players have been unable to work out or practice, the future Ohio State guard has been able to do both.
“That's a blessing, being able to still get your work in,” his father, Meechie Johnson Sr., said. “We never stopped working, but to be able to continue doing it now while a lot of kids are not able to work or get in the gym, it puts us right where we need to be.”
The ranking service 247Sports.com ranks Johnson as the country's No. 85 overall recruit, the No. 6 combo guard in his class and the No. 2 native Ohioan. Johnson is No. 50 in ESPN's national recruiting rankings that were released Wednesday. He is part of what is currently a two-man recruiting class for the Buckeyes that is expected to finish with as many as four players.
When he gets to Ohio State, Johnson won't have the opportunity to be reunited with Alonzo Gaffney, his former teammate at Garfield Heights. Gaffney left the program after one season and is exploring a professional career.
“That definitely would have been fun to be out there with him one more time, but it's a business,” Johnson said. “Zo had to do what is best for him, but this is my future and my career and I'm just excited about me going there still and still having the opportunity to play against top competition and play in one of the top conferences in the country.”
To keep prepared, Johnson said he speaks with the Ohio State coaching staff on a daily basis. They send him clips from games and he sends videos of his workouts alongside his dad.
“They always keep in touch and always show love,” he said. “It is nice to have them always checking in and always seeing how I'm doing.”