October 04, 2011
When Colorado announced its intention to leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-12 last year, Coach Tad Boyle said the biggest impact on his program would be that it would instantly become more attractive to California recruits.
So far Boyle has backed up his words.
Colorado received a commitment Monday afternoon from Class of 2012 forward Xavier Johnson, one of the cornerstones of the Mater Dei team that won the state championship in California's top division last season. Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said Monday night that Colorado being able to guarantee Johnson the ability to annually play in front of his friends and family made the school more attractive to the four-star recruit.
"The Pac-12 made it a good fit," McKnight said. "Having an opportunity to come out here and play against the USCs, UCLAs and Stanfords was something he really wanted to do. I think he's really looking forward to that."
Johnson will become the fourth Southern California recruit to sign with Colorado in the past two classes, joining current freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie, Askia Booker and Damiene Cain (who quit the team). The Buffaloes also continue to be heavily involved with guard Tyrone Wallace, a Class of 2012 Bakersfield native who will visit on the weekend of Oct. 21.
Add Johnson to a Colorado 2012 class that already features in-state forwards Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon and Detroit native Chris Jenkins, and suddenly you have reason to believe Colorado can be competitive in the Pac-12 by 2013 or 14. Scott is Rivals.com's No. 65 recruit and Johnson is No. 83, not bad for a Colorado program that has made only two NCAA tournament appearances since 1969.
Colorado might not have had the opportunity to land Johnson were it not for the 6-foot-6 small forward's underwhelming summer that saw him drop in the rankings. UCLA began wooing Johnson before he entered high school and USC offered him a scholarship early in his recruitment as well, but both were among the schools that have made Johnson less of a priority more recently.
McKnight said schools who backed off Johnson may regret it because he plays better in a structured game than he does in free-flowing AAU ball. Johnson needs to become a more consistent shooter and attack the rim more often when his jump shot isn't falling, but his size, athleticism, ability to finish in the open floor and team-first approach make him a great addition for Colorado.
"Xavier plays really shines with us at Mater Dei," McKnight said. "That's why I think Colorado got a real steal with him. I think they got a guy who can step in and play right away for them."