Ohio State basketball recruit Meechie Johnson Jr. switching high schools

Adam Jardy
Ohio State basketball recruits Alonzo Gaffney (left) and Meechie Johnson (right), both of Garfield Heights High School, attend Saturday's NCAA Division I basketball game between the Buckeyes and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Value City Arena in Columbus on February 10, 2018. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]

Seeking a place where he can take his time recovering from a knee injury, Ohio State commitment Meechie Johnson is transferring schools and will sit out the 2019-20 season.

After playing his first two seasons at Garfield Heights, Johnson will attend Willoughby International Sports Academy for his final two years of high school. News about the 6-foot-2 Johnson broke Monday morning and was confirmed by The Dispatch.

Sonny Johnson, Meechie’s uncle and former coach, said the move was made to give him options as he continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered during the playoffs in March.

“It’s his future,” he said. “He’ll get opportunities not playing this year to rest up. That’s a tough injury to come back from. To have the opportunity to go somewhere and have an extra year if you need, that’s a good opportunity.”

When he committed to Ohio State, Meechie Johnson Jr. said he was planning to take his time with his recovery and that he would not be rushing back.

At ISA, Johnson would have the option to play one year of post-graduate basketball should he decide to go that route.

The decision was made without input from Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and his staff, Sonny Johnson said.

“He’s sitting out this entire year for sure,” Sonny Johnson said. “He’s planning on coming out in the 2021 class, but they do have a fifth-year program. Nobody knows how he’s going to come back. That’s a tough injury, so he has that option.”

At ISA, Johnson Jr. will be coached by former Ohio State walk-on Jake Lorbach, a northeast Ohioan who is an assistant coach on staff. He will also be teammates with four-star center prospect Charles Bediako, who is the No. 63 recruit in the nation and No. 2 in Ohio according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Johnson is a four-star prospect, the No. 71 recruit in the country and No. 3 prospect from Ohio.

“He’s very excited,” Sonny Johnson said of Meechie Jr.’s mind-set. “It’s another chapter for his basketball career. The main thing is his health and the next chapter in his career. They’ve got a kid over there that Ohio State has offered as well. Maybe he can persuade him to be a Buckeye.”

Johnson Jr. frequently posts to social media with updates from the workout room or fitness clubs. The night that he committed to the Buckeyes, he posted a video during which he closed down an LA Fitness. A source has indicated that the Ohio State coaching staff is not concerned that Johnson’s comeback from the injury or about his potential to be an impact player in college.

“I think when he’s back to healthy there’s no stopping him because he’s beyond self-motivated,” his uncle said. “He’s always had a chip on his shoulder and he loves the game. When you get that type of kid, you don’t really worry about how that kid’s going to come back.”

The move does mean that Sonny Johnson will again watch a future Ohio State player transfer out of his program. Two years ago, five-star forward Alonzo Gaffney left Garfield Heights after one year to play for Wolfeboro (New Hampshire) Brewster Academy before starting the 2019-20 season with the Buckeyes.

The two remain on good terms, with Gaffney going back to work out at Garfield Heights during the spring before enrolling at Ohio State, but it did make the Bulldogs coach laugh.

“I’ll tell you one thing: every time I get a Buckeye player, they kind of disappear on me,” he said jokingly. “I might not let a kid sign with the Buckeyes until after graduation.”


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