After unique recruitment, AJ Green ready to 'make some noise' at Northern Iowa
CEDAR FALLS, Ia. — AJ Green still remembers the phone call and Ben Jacobson’s reaction on the other end. Needless to say, the Northern Iowa basketball coach was elated to hear the news.
“I’m pretty sure he was up at his cabin in Minnesota, and he was out fishing,” Green recalled. “I remember when I told him, he said something like, ‘I’m so excited right now I could jump in the lake.’
“It was pretty cool.”
The August phone call cemented Green’s Panther commitment, which he made official Wednesday with a signing-day ceremony at Cedar Falls High School. Despite owning a bevy of Power Five offers, the consensus top-100 prospect stuck with UNI, where his dad, Kyle Green, is an assistant coach. Clemson, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia all offered, and many others were likely had Green not had family ties to the Panthers.
Still, landing Green, who’s ranked No. 86 by 247Sports and No. 88 by Rivals in the 2018 class, can’t be overstated for a UNI program loaded with young talent.
Plug in an elite point guard prospect to a strong underclassmen group that includes freshmen Tywhon Pickford and Austin Phyfe, sophomores Juwan McCloud and Isaiah Brown and redshirt sophomore Spencer Haldeman. It’s easy to imagine a bright future.
“Just watching Juwan and Isaiah last year and then watching Phyfe and Tywhon come in and (play well) in a couple exhibition games really showed what they can bring to the team,” Green said. “I feel like once I get there and a couple other players in my class that we’ll definitely be able to make some noise, hopefully make a deep run in the tournament like they did a couple years ago.”
Although his catapult-esque shot looks a bit unorthodox, Green’s range as a sharpshooting point guard is limitless. After a standout junior season where he averaged 21.5 points per game and shot 43 percent from deep leading Cedar Falls, Green lit it up on the AAU circuit while playing for the Iowa Barnstormers.
Offers and interest poured in as Green contemplated whether to stay home or venture elsewhere. His father tried to be as neutral as possible.
“I just keep reminding myself that it’s his decision and we’re here to support him,” Kyle said this summer. “Because of the way he’s raised, we feel like he’s going to make a great decision. He’s not going to make a wrong decision.
“It’s probably a lot harder on him than it is on us, going through it. For me, it’s been fairly easy. For him, it’s tough. He’s getting pulled a lot of different directions.”
Virginia was the last to offer in mid-July, and Green waited about another month before announcing a decision on Aug. 11. He said there wasn’t one specific moment when he knew UNI was the right move, just a continual flow of evidence that staying home would be most beneficial.
“Toward the end, once I started looking at all the pros and cons of each school, everything just came back to UNI,” Green said. “That was the spot.”
He then phoned Jacobson with a smile.
"AJ has a tremendous work ethic and drive to be the absolute best,” the UNI coach said in a school release. “It has been a lot of fun watching him work and grow as player over the course of all these years. In AJ, we are getting a player who knows our program, comes in with lofty goals and has made himself one of the best players in the country.
Most importantly, we are getting a terrific young guy. This is an exciting day for our basketball family.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.