The Aztecs have completed their freshman recruiting for the class of 2022 with the Addition of Koren Johnson. He is a 6’1″ (or 6’2″ depending on who you ask), 175 lbs. guard who ranks 118 in the nation in the 247 composite rankings.
Johnson comes from the greater Seattle area (Malachi Flynn anyone?). He recently transferred to Wasatch Academy to play against tougher competition. His addition to Elijah Saunders and Miles Byrd helps round out one of the best classes the Aztecs have ever gotten.
Tape of Johnson is hard to find. Highlight reels are easy, but actual game tape is rare. The tape for this article came from the Primetime 40 showcase, an invite only event for high school players from the greater pacific northwest. It’s similar to the San Diego Swish League. Same as with Swish League, it’s not the best judge of a player’s skill. It’s what is available at the moment. Playing at Wasatch should mean many more televised games, so Johnson’s scouting report will be updated when more game tape is available.
Sadly, because the video is so long it couldn’t be uploaded to this article. As previously mentioned, as more games become available I’ll write an updated scouting report with video.
What does Johnson bring on defense?
Johnson had some inconsistent showing on defense. He looked disinterested at times, and was very eager to leak out in transition rather than rotate properly or box out. It did result in a good amount of layups in transition, but it occasionally also allowed the other team to score.
Many times when on defense he would get lazy with his feet and let the ball handler get by him in order to try and poke the ball out from behind. It was the type of effort that won’t fly at SDSU.
On the bright side, Johnson showed a lot of athleticism. His engagement picked up dramatically when defending on the ball. He has great lateral quickness to stay in front of his man, and has quick hands to poke balls loose and disrupt the ball handler.
When he’s engaged Johnson has shown the athleticism and skills to be an effective defender, capable of locking down the point of attack.
Johnson isn’t a finished product. Weighing at only 175 lbs. he has a slight build for his frame. It’s not uncommon for high school players, as they grow in height faster than they can add muscle. He’s not far behind where he’ll need to end up, but early on in his career he may be bullied by bigger players.
Overall, Johnson has all the tools to succeed as a defender. As long as he’s engaged he’ll be fine.
What does Johnson bring on offense?
Offense is where Johnson shined at the Primetime 40. He has a full package of skills as a guard.
It all starts with his ball handling. Johnson is one of the best ball handlers in the country. He has a dazzling array of ball handling combinations that let him get to any spot on the floor against any defense. He combines push dribbles, crossovers, behind-the-back, and spins to break defenses and force rotations.
At the Primetime 40, Johnson struggled with his shot. He creates space for himself effortlessly, but missed most of the shots he took from behind the arc. Just as a guess, he probably shot around 20-25% from behind the arc over the course of three 30 minute games. That’s not encouraging, but it is an extremely small sample size. His highlight reels show him draining shots from all over, and he takes enough of them to suggest coaches have faith in his shot. His accuracy from deep will be something worth monitoring, but not worrying about yet.
Johnson’s finishing at the rim will also need some work. Specifically finishing through contact. He can finish at the rim well enough, but sometimes struggles to finish through contact. Adding some weight and core strength will help with that, as will playing against the tougher competition at Wasatch academy. While there expect him to learn more about finishing over bigger and stronger players. Once again, it’s not something worth worrying about, but it’s something he’ll need to work on to live up to the lofty expectations already being placed on his shoulders.
Johnson’s passing is probably his second best skill after ball handling. It starts in transition, where he is great at throwing hit ahead passes for easy scores. In the half court he has the coordination to throw one handed passes across the court on a dime while in mid air.
Lastly, he has a swagger about him. An air of confidence that can’t really be measured and is hard to show in clips. It’s definitely there though, seen in his body language. he seems like the kind of player who wants the ball in his hands with 10 seconds left, waving off screens so he can isolate, break the defense, and make the shot. Sometimes that kind of approach and confidence can get players into trouble, and lead them to take shots they shouldn’t. Johnson had some of that at Primetime 40. Other times, that kind of confidence leads players to make the buzzer beating shots that win the game. Trey Pulliam hit one last year against UNLV. Malachi Flynn hit one the year before against San Jose St.
Fans can expect Johnson to follow in those footsteps, and hit a couple shots like that as well.
Koren Johnson has all the tools to succeed, and should only continue to get better. When engaged, he’s a monster on both sides of the floor. He’s a pest on defense that will get into guys and cause them issues, frustrating them all game, and on offense he runs the show and is nearly impossible to contain. All three players in this class, and especially Johnson, are under ranked.
On a more personal note, at first when I saw the lack of engagement I was concerned. Sure, it’s a summer game with little stakes, but still make it look like you want to be there. I’ve shared similar concerns about Keith Dinwiddie at Swish League. The more I watched though, the more I saw it wasn’t the same thing. It didn’t appear that Koren wasn’t engaged because he didn’t care or didn’t want to be there. It looked more so like he wasn’t being challenged enough. Essentially, he was bored, and had to artificially increase the difficulty level to make things more interesting. He was literally toying with guys. Should that observation hold true, it’ll be a great sign for SDSU over his four years on the Mesa.