LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. — This is the place where so many recruiting processes play out, away from the massive and crowded multi-court gymnasiums where dozens of college coaches bounce between games and media outlets churn out highlight videos.
There are sparsely filled, four-rowed bleachers behind each bench in the practice gym at Laguna Hills High in Orange County. The building is so small you can hear hushed conversations in the bleachers.
But to Trinity High star David Johnson, none of that really matters.
“As long as there’s 10 people on the court and two baskets, I’m there,” Johnson said on Wednesday night after his travel team’s loss in its Adidas Summer Championships opener.
Compared to the previous games at the school, Johnson’s contest actually drew a nice crowd. That’s because the 6-foot-5 Louisville native, a top-100 prospect in the 2019 class, was going toe-to-toe with Class of 2020 prospect Kyree Walker, a top-15 recruit in his class who has already committed to play at Arizona State.
Beyond the handful of fellow players lingering on the sidelines, there were a dozen or so college coaches sitting courtside. Many of them were West Coast coaches there to watch the prospects on Walker’s team, a California-based squad with seven Division I prospects on its roster.
Johnson wanted to show he could play with them. And while his team lost, with Walker’s group pulling away in the second half, Johnson finished with 15 points from 6-of-13 shooting, with two steals, one rebound and what should’ve been at least three assists on missed layups.
He displayed a powerful left-handed drive that keeps defenders on his hip and the ability to score in traffic as well as from distance. Those are products of Johnson’s more confident approach this offseason.
“I’m trying to make a name for myself,” Johnson said. “People already know who I am, but I’m trying to pick it up a little more. … I feel like I still need to get stronger. I’ve gotten a lot stronger since the spring, but everyone’s basically caught up.”
Even though Johnson withdrew his pledge to play for Louisville last fall after the FBI’s investigation into college hoops ensnared the program, many recruiting analysts still consider Johnson a slam dunk to sign with the Cards.