Dakari Johnson commits to Kentucky

Updated: January 6, 2013, 12:10 AM ET
By Paul Biancardi | ESPN RecruitingNation

WHEELING, W.Va. -- Senior Dakari Johnson, the No. 1 center and No. 12 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, strengthened Kentucky's stranglehold on the top 2013 basketball recruiting class when he committed to the Wildcats on Saturday night.

Johnson, a native of New York City who plays his high school ball at Montverde Academy in Florida, picked Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. He said winning and the honesty of John Calipari and his staff were among the factors that tipped in Kentucky's favor.

"I just want to win a national championship," Johnson said. "I want to win a high school championship, then a college championship and hopefully an NBA championship.

"(The coaching staff) told me this was not the place to come if I didn't want to work hard," he added. "But I want to work hard and I want to get pushed. And I think Kentucky is the place for me."

Johnson made his decision after No. 1 Montverde's convincing 82-53 nationally televised win over No. 12 Chicago Simeon at the Cancer Research Classic.

"Just a hard worker," Johnson said when asked what Kentucky would be getting in him. "A presence in the paint and in the post on offense and defense. And I'm a good teammate. I think I'm a good person on and off the court."

It's been an eventful two months for Johnson, who in early November announced he was reclassifying from the 2014 class to 2013. He is now in the middle of an excellent senior season, which includes a No. 1 national ranking for Montverde in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings and MVP honors for Johnson at the prestigious City of Palms Classic last month against some of the top players and teams in the country.

After he reclassified, Johnson's recruiting began to intensify. In fact, it was only two weeks ago that he trimmed his finalists to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Johnson did not make any official visits but went to all three of his final schools for unofficial visits.

"I just didn't want to wait any longer," Johnson said.

With Johnson in the fold, Kentucky now has three players ranked No. 1 at their position in the Class of 2013. Kentucky signee Andrew Harrison is the No. 1 point guard prospect in the nation, while twin brother Aaron Harrison is the top shooting guard. Both are top-five prospects in the senior class.

But the talent in Kentucky's 2013 recruiting class doesn't end there. During November's early-signing period, the Wildcats also inked James Young, the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 6 overall prospect; Marcus Lee, the No. 11 power forward and No. 30 prospect; and three-star power forward Derek Willis.

The Wildcats also recently received a commitment from junior center Karl Towns Jr., the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2014.

Kentucky is on a historic run of recruiting success, landing No. 1 classes in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the No. 2 class in 2012.

Paul Biancardi

Basketball Recruiting