Recruiting mailbag: Chico Johnson on Drake basketball commitment, Miles Thompson on Texas Tech

Hello and welcome back to the recruiting mailbag.

Let’s talk about gameday visits.

Now that we’re a few weeks into football season, I’m reminded of how important gameday visits are to recruiting. I’m sure Iowa fans remember the Penn State game last season, and there were a ton of recruits in attendance for that moment.

There haven’t been games that big – in terms of recruiting attendance – this season, but the Hawkeyes' game against No. 4 Michigan on Saturday could be the big one for Iowa. And it won’t just be football recruits; Iowa men’s basketball will host four-star center JT Rock this weekend as well.

Long story short, gameday visits are an important part of recruiting. And as someone who covers recruiting, they’re a great way to keep an eye on current and future prospects.

But that’s something to pay attention to during pregame of the Iowa-Michigan game. For now, let’s take a look at a couple of questions I was sent in the recruiting mailbag this week.

How did Drake men’s basketball land Chico Johnson?

Last week, the Bulldogs picked up Chico Johnson, their first commitment in the 2023 class.

Here’s the quick rundown: Johnson, a senior at Toledo Central Catholic in Ohio, is a 6-foot-3 athletic wing. He finished last season with an average of 15.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

But over the summer, Johnson tore his ACL during a summer camp and doctors told him it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to return to the court until later in his senior season, if at all. It was a difficult time for Johnson, who not only found out that he won’t be able to play high school basketball this year, but most of the teams that had offered him pulled out.

“It took a toll on me, just to see most of my scholarships being taken away,” Johnson told me last week. “Talking to coaches and them telling me that someone else took my spot or that they just need to see me play after the injury. I just felt like they gave up on me.”

But two schools didn’t: Kent State and Drake.

“It means so much, I can’t put it into words,” Johnson said. “Everybody gave up on me except for Drake. They welcomed me in when I visited. I felt like it was home.”

And so when Johnson looked at his options, it came down to a couple of things. First, Drake believed in him when other teams didn’t. Second, the Bulldogs have a proven track record, and their trip to the 2021 NCAA Tournament was something that appealed to Johnson.

But there was something – or rather, someone – else that helped get Johnson on board.

“I know D.J. (Wilkins, a Drake guard), he also went through an ACL. He talked to me while I was going through my injury, my surgery, and he just told me to take it one day at a time. Just keep my head up, stay positive. Because where he’s at right now, he’s looking real good and I want to get where he’s at.”

Johnson says he might return to high school basketball later in the season if he can, but he also wants to take as much time as he needs to feel like he’s back at 100% heading into his college career.

And as for heading to Drake to play college ball, Johnson is ready to prove himself to the Bulldogs coaches, players and fans.

“They’re gonna get a surprise. A good surprise. I have a lot to prove. I know I’m not there yet, but I want them to know that I’m gonna give it my all.”

What’s going on with Miles Thompson’s recruitment?

Cedar Rapids Washington senior Miles Thompson has been a player I’ve kept my eye on going back to last football season.

He’s a three-star athlete – projected at defensive back, particularly cornerback – but holds just two Division I FBS offers, from Northern Illinois and Texas Tech. Thompson originally committed to NIU, the first team to really take a chance on him and extend that offer.

But just over a week ago, Thompson announced he had decommitted from NIU, a decision he says was not easy.

His announcement came a few days after he shared that he had picked up the offer from Texas Tech.

I was curious what changed in Thompson’s recruitment for him to decommit, so I went straight to the source. Turns out, it was about more than just picking up a Big 12 offer versus a Mid-American offer.

Cedar Rapids Washington senior Miles Thompson is considering Texas Tech for both football and track after decommitting from Northern Illinois.
Cedar Rapids Washington senior Miles Thompson is considering Texas Tech for both football and track after decommitting from Northern Illinois.

“Texas Tech has a track program, which NIU doesn’t,” Thompson said. “When Texas Tech started looking at me, part of it was because of track, and I would like to continue my track career. So that’s one of the reasons why.”

Thompson is the type of track athlete who attracts colleges' attention. At the 2022 state track meet, he placed second in the 100-meter dash, third in the 200, and second in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Add his football skills on top of that, and he could be a dual-sport star for Texas Tech.

There were a couple of other factors that played into his decision, starting with the coaching staff and James Blanchard, the director of player personnel for Texas Tech.

“Coach Blanchard, the first time I talked to him, he was just very real with me and saying what I’m capable of and he thinks I’m one of the best corners in the Midwest that he’s seen on film. His advice was amazing and I just have a really good feeling about him and the rest of the staff.”

Thompson also has family in Texas, so he would be close to some aunts and uncles if he needs some family support.

And Texas weather may have played a small part in his decision, too.

“I feel like getting out of the Midwest was best for me,” Thompson said. “I really don’t like the cold. If I go down south, I can train year-round because it’s always warm.”

Even though Texas Tech is the only other offer on the table right now, Thompson is focused on high school football first. In his own words: “Just taking it day by day and really just focusing on my senior year for football.”

Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Recruiting mailbag: How did Drake basketball land Chico Johnson?