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Meet 2010 Basketball Recruit James Johnson

Note: Throughout the week, you will find a mini-feature on Virginia’s four men’s basketball commitments. There will be a story in The Washington Post next week combining each recruit.

Tuesday: Will Regan
Wednesday: Joe Harris
Today: K.T. Harrell, James Johnson

Johnson attended the NBA Players’ Association Top 100 camp in Charlottesville in June. That was the impetus for his infatuation with Virginia.

Had the camp been at Maryland or Virginia Tech, his father said there’s a chance Johnson would have committed to those schools. But the camp was at John Paul Jones Arena, first spiking an interest with the Cavaliers.

The recruitment of the 6-foot-9 post player from California continued, and Johnson took an official visit to Virginia earlier this month. He spent time with the current players, met all the assistant coaches and even saw his sister, who attends nearby Liberty University.

“At that point,” Johnson said, “there was no doubt in my mind.”

The decision was a sharp contrast to 48 hours earlier, when Johnson planned on prolonging the recruiting process.

“Basically, I told myself before I went, ‘Don’t commit while you’re there,' ” Johnson said.

On the final day of the recruiting trip, the coaches asked Johnson a question: “What more do you need to see?” He had visited each school he was interested in attending, did all his research and felt a connection with Coach Tony Bennett and assistant coach Ritchie McKay.

Johnson cancelled a scheduled visit to Arizona and bypassed other schools such as Oklahoma, California and Maryland, among others. He became the fourth player to orally commit to Virginia during the summer.

If you had told Johnson three years ago that he’d be one of the hottest recruits in the nation, he’d respond with disbelief. Johnson was an American-born big man playing in Canada, where he grew up while his father worked in Alberta. The coaches in Canada told the Johnsons that James needed better competition, prompting the move to Southern California.

Johnson first lived with his AAU coach in San Diego while his parents found a place to settle, but he was not permitted to play high school basketball because of transfer rules. He now lives in between San Diego and Los Angeles and attends Elsinore High in Wildomar, Calif., where his coach did not know he was about to receive a Rivals.com four-star prospect.

“He'll definitely be the best player” in the league, Coach Pete Rettinger said. It is an opinion the Virginia coaching staff likely hopes translates to the ACC when Johnson arrives in 2010.

“I never, ever thought in my wildest imaginations that I’d be playing basketball in the states or the ACC,” Johnson said. “I thought I’d be in Canada.”

By Zach Berman  |  September 25, 2009; 2:25 PM ET
 
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Next: Virginia-Indiana at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 10

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