Four-star basketball recruit Puff Johnson to take official Ohio State visit

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann. [Adam Cairns / Dispatch]

When Donovan “Puff” Johnson took an unofficial visit to Ohio State on Thursday, he got to see some of what the Buckeyes have to offer.

The full tour, however, is being saved for his return trip. A four-star wing in the class of 2020, Johnson told The Dispatch that Ohio State is one of three schools he is in the process of scheduling official visits for this fall.

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“As of now, it’s going to be Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio State, but I’m still working on a couple more to see which other ones I want to take a look at,” he said. “I’m taking this unofficial (visit), and I’m taking an official. We’re just trying to set up the time, but I’m definitely going to take an official mostly because I know coach (Chris Holtmann) has wanted me down there for a while. It seemed like a good opportunity to come down.”

While at Ohio State, Johnson said he spent time seeing the campus and the facilities. He watched a team workout and got to talk with the players a little bit, he said, but more interaction is planned for his return trip.

A native of the Pittsburgh area, Johnson said he grew up watching Ohio State basketball in addition to his father’s alma mater, Pitt. When the Buckeyes began recruiting him at the beginning of his junior season at Coraopolis Moon Area, it caught him by surprise.

“I grew up watching Ohio State and (thought) how crazy would it be to go there,” he said. “When the coaches reached out to me, I was in shock. I definitely watched a lot of Ohio State. They were about the same as Pitt, but it’s close to my hometown and it was a good time watching Greg Oden and Mike Conley and Even Turner and Deshaun Thomas. All of them were really good and I thought it would be crazy if I was there one day.”

Ohio State assistant coach Ryan Pedon is handling the bulk of Johnson’s recruitment, but Holtmann also reaches out, Johnson said. While Johnson was on his unofficial visit, Holtmann discussed how he would fit into the team, he said.

The Buckeyes, like most schools, are recruiting him to play on the wing, either at shooting guard or small forward. In high school, the 6-foot-7, 185-pound small forward said he also plays as a stretch 4.

His older brother, Cameron, played for Pitt for two seasons before graduating early with two seasons of eligibility as a graduate transfer. Ohio State recruited him under coach Thad Matta, but he opted to sign with North Carolina and was taken No. 11 overall by Minnesota in the 2019 NBA draft and immediately traded to Phoenix as part of a multi-player deal.

The two speak often about Puff’s recruitment.

“He definitely guides me through the process,” the younger Johnson brother said. “Just looking for a program that I fit into with teammates I can talk to and hang out with. Just a program that I feel most comfortable in with a coach I can trust and talk to. Things like that. I’m not really looking for location, I’m looking for a place that fits me the best.”

Ohio State has one available spot in the class of 2020 and no commitments.

Johnson is ranked as the No. 45 recruit in the nation, the No. 13 small forward and the top prospect from Pennsylvania, but there’s a twist. On Sept. 3, Johnson will leave the state and head to Arizona, where he will play his senior season for Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix.

“I repeated eighth grade and then they counted that as a high school year,” he said. “I got denied my eligibility at my high school in Pittsburgh. I feel like that’s the best opportunity for me to go, but it definitely hurts not to be at my high school because I grew up with those kids and I’m used to playing basketball with them. I’m used to hanging around them every day. It’s going to be a different change but a good change.”


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