Jadin Johnson showed off a consistent midrange jumper against West Des Moines Valley. Matthew Bain, Sports writer
When you look at the state of Iowa's 2021 basketball class, Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln's Jadin Johnson stands out.
He's a long, 6-foot-4 point guard with a body that's nowhere near a finished product.
Colleges this past spring and summer thought he stood out, too. After a strong AAU season with the Martin Bros 15-and-under squad, Johnson picked up interest from a range of high-, mid- and low-majors.
He visited Iowa, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin this fall. Texas A&M and Virginia Tech expressed interest. Drake, Marshall and South Dakota State reached out. Others were involved, too.
For now, though, Johnson has pushed his recruitment to the back burner. He isn't making as many calls or texts or setting up visits.
Instead, he's all-in on developing his game during the high school season.
"My focus has been around me getting better and being a better leader," Johnson told me. "If I can be a true point guard and make my high school teammates better, and this summer be a point guard and make my AAU teammates better, recruitment will work out for me.
"I have to become a proven leader as a point guard. My job is to make everyone around me better."
Johnson is averaging 9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals this year, while shooting 33.3 percent and 20 percent (5-for-25) from long range. Remember, he's a sophomore.
I was out at West Des Moines Valley last Saturday to watch Johnson play the Tigers. That was my first time seeing him live since July. And it was a particularly good day to watch Johnson, as he was going against 6-4 senior point guard Trayvon Williams — one of the state's most-physical perimeter defenders.
Bottom line: Johnson is an intriguing prospect because of what he could look like in two years. He's not a finished product. There are areas of his game, specifically on offense, that have lots of room for improvement and refinement.
On the flipside, Johnson's length makes him an excellent rebounder from the guard position. He is an active defender who can guard multiple positions, and that will only become more true as he adds muscle. And he is pure point guard who looks to set up his teammates before asserting himself as the game progresses.
Here's more from what I saw Saturday:
A few more words on Johnson's defense
He is CBAL's point guard, but he's also their tallest player — so he does so much for the Lynx on defense. Against Valley, he'd guard on the perimeter and thwart passes inside with his long arms. If the ball did get inside, he'd sag off his man when appropriate to help ... before dashing back with high hands if the ball went back outside.
His feet aren't lightning-quick, so smaller guards were able to get a step on him if he got too close. He's currently working on keeping his hips lower on defense, which will help. But it's also an issue of being overly aggressive — which isn't a bad problem to have. Johnson will eventually learn that sweet spot where he can use his length to frustrate guards but not get so close they can beat him off the dribble.
Bright spots, areas for improvement on offense
Johnson's midrange jumper is there. Coming off screens, stop-and-pop, off the dribble — it doesn't matter. He gets good elevation and has a quick, smooth release. Johnson has been working on the midrange jumper his whole life. He takes pride in trying to master a somewhat-lost art in modern basketball.
And that's why I'm not terribly worried about the 20 percent mark from long range. The form is there. Johnson shoots quite well during warm-ups, but he's only attempted 25 3-pointers through 12 games this season. He needs more high-pressure, in-game reps to build confidence in the shot.
Johnson said he's working on his 3-ball, in addition to ball-handling, free-throw shooting and keeping his hips low on defense. He also said he's working on driving to his left, which ties in with ball-handling.
He drove almost exclusively to his right on Saturday. Against high school guards, that might be OK. Not against Williams, who, along with 6-7 forward Aguek Deng, were able to mostly impede Johnson's drives in the first half.
Johnson eventually adjusted and relied more on his jumper in the second half en route to 14 points. He was also more selective with his drives, taking advantage of better match-ups — like when Deng got pulled out to the perimeter to guard him.
But Johnson knows his offense will open up if he's a threat going either direction.
He'll be a prospect to watch develop over the next couple years, because the potential is there.
And it's considerable.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.