There was no doubting the athleticism. When former Ripley (West Virginia) High basketball coach Evan Faulkner began working with newest UF commitment Chase Johnson two years ago, he could see his ability to run the floor, rebound and finish in transition.
“He was a 6-(foot)-6 kid who was just starting to realize his future,” said Faulkner, now a graduate basketball assistant at the University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Ky. “A high-major athlete.”
But Faulkner said Johnson demonstrated a strict work ethic over the past two years to improve his skill level. As a result, Faulkner said he thinks Johnson, now 6-8 and growing, could create matchup problems at the power forward spot at the Division I level.
“He’s lived in the gym the past two seasons and become really polished,” Faulkner said. “He’s owned his own development.”
Faulkner said that Johnson began opening eyes in summer leagues at the end of his sophomore season. Marshall was the first Division I school to extend a scholarship offer, and that number grew to 10 offers by his junior season, which included Florida, Kansas State, TCU, West Virginia and Virginia. As a junior at Ripley, Johnson flourished, averaging 17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
“He was a face-up four (power forward) for us last season,” Faulkner said. “He’s an excellent mid-range shooter who is developing into a good 3-point shooter. He can come off ball screens and make shots. He’s big enough to play power forward in the SEC and because of his skill level and his athletic ability, he has the ability to shoot and go-around guys.”
At 205 pounds, Johnson may need to add some more bulk, but Florida strength coach Preston Greene’s should help once the West Virginia native arrives on campus. Johnson will spend his senior season at Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va., which will get him exposed to a high level of competition before college.
“The scary thing is he’ll turn 18 just when he arrives on campus as a freshman,” Faulkner said. “So I think he’s got a high upside, for sure.”
Of course, another under-the-radar hybrid forward recruit with a similar size and frame to Johnson, Chandler Parsons, developed into the SEC Player of the Year by his senior year and an NBA max contract player. Johnson doesn’t handle and pass the ball as well as Parsons did in high school, but the scoring and rebounding potential is similar.
“He’s a guy that’s going to work at what he needs to work at to get better,” Faulkner said.