Ohio State men's basketball recruiting | Buckeyes host 4-star Isaac Johnson on official visit

Adam Jardy
Flames roar at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. [Joshua A. Bickel]

Ohio State finalized its 2019 recruiting class in strong form when it secured a commitment from four-star power forward E.J. Liddell last week. That gave the Buckeyes three commitments for what will be a top-10 class nationally.

But last weekend, as the football team was hosting Indiana, the Buckeyes also hosted a high school senior for an official visit. Isaac Johnson is a four-star center prospect, but his recruitment comes with a catch: the native of American Fork, Utah, is planning to take a two-year mission trip after high school prior to starting his collegiate career.

So while he’s technically a member of the class of 2019, Johnson would not enroll at a school or occupy a roster spot until 2021. The chance to eventually sign a 20-year-old freshman who has had an extra two years to develop his body has helped make Johnson a unique and in-demand recruit for the likes of Ohio State, Oregon, BYU and Utah.

Those are his top four schools, per coach Ryan Cuff.

“What most people see in him is that if he does go and serve a mission for two years that he could get maybe a little stronger, more mature and would come back and with his work ethic be able to get back into the swing of things and not miss too much,” Cuff told The Dispatch. “That’s probably why a lot of teams see that a mission wouldn’t be a negative but could maybe be a positive because he’s not ready right away to come in as a true freshman. I don’t know Ohio State’s take. I think their anticipation is they know that he’s going on a mission and they’re supportive of it.”

The mission trip is a part of Johnson’s faith as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, widely referred to as Mormon missionaries. Although he could delay a college decision until after his mission trip, Cuff said the plan is for Johnson to pick a school before his senior season gets underway so that he can focus on his team and then the next phase of his life.

To that end, Johnson has taken official visits to Utah and Ohio State and is still planning others to BYU and Oregon in the coming weeks. Owing to Johnson’s experiences playing AAU basketball, Cuff said the center is wide open on where he could end up.

“He’s the type of kid that could really go anywhere,” the coach said. “Sometimes these Utah kids feel like they have to stay home and play close to home, but he’s the type of kid that it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up going out of state. He’s the type of kid who could do his own thing because he’s been around some of those high-caliber camps and he’s played everywhere and traveled everywhere.”

Johnson wasn’t the only recruit at Ohio State last weekend from the class of 2021. Guard Meechie Johnson from Garfield Heights, Ohio, and guard Khristian Lander from Evansville (Indiana) Francis Joseph Reitz School, were both on campus for unofficial visits. Lander tweeted that the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship.

Blessed to receive an offer from Ohio State University , thank you to Coach Holtmann and staff #buckeyenation

— Khristian Lander (@khristianlander) October 6, 2018

“He had a great trip out there this last weekend and a lot of fun and said some really good things about the campus and coaching staff and players,” Cuff said of Johnson. “Obviously he’s got a dream of playing in the NBA, looking at teams, coaches that have helped players get to another level is something why he’s considered Ohio State and what the tradition has been there and the new staff has created some really good things there that are getting some national recognition.”

The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Johnson is the top prospect from Utah, the No. 19 center in the country and overall No. 70 recruit in the composite rankings. Don’t let his size and position fool you, however: Cuff said he’s a versatile player who is equally comfortable on the wing.

“He’s a great passer for his size,” Cuff said. “He sees the floor well. At times he wants to be the point guard, but that’s not happening. But he loves to have the ball in his hands and he does make good decisions and when you think of a perimeter player being able to handle the ball and shoot it at any level, that’s nice. I’m excited to be able to see what he is able to do continuously throughout the season.

“You don’t see too many 6-11 guys that can really shoot well and put the ball on the floor. He shoots well off the dribble and he’s got some pretty good speed and a quick first step that allows him to get to the elbow in a dribble and pull-up.”


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: