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- Mixed martial artist from New Zealand
It was an agonizing decision, one that Myles Johnson pondered through Thursday night and into Friday morning.
Would he pick UCLA or Stanford? A master’s degree from a Stanford engineering school ranked No. 2 in the country by U.S. News & World Report or a UCLA engineering school ranked No. 16? A UCLA team coming off a Final Four or a Stanford one that had not been to the NCAA tournament since 2014?
Being an engineering major on the verge of completing his undergraduate degree at Rutgers, Johnson took a mathematical approach to his dilemma. He created an Excel table and gave each school rankings in various categories.
“It was out of a 4.0 scale and it was like 3.86 to 3.79,” Johnson told The Los Angeles Times on Friday. “It was really close.”
UCLA emerged as the victor, making the Bruins a double winner after they also secured a commitment from highly coveted Los Angeles Windward High point guard Dylan Andrews.
The commitments will fill pressing needs. A member of the 2021 All-Big Ten Conference defensive team, the 6-foot-11 Johnson can use his 7-foot-7 wingspan to provide the shot-blocking presence UCLA has missed since forward Jalen Hill departed the team in February. Andrews, a high school junior, will presumably become the successor to Bruins point guard Tyger Campbell.
Johnson said UCLA’s blend of winning academics and basketball gave it the edge over Stanford, which had some heavy star power in its corner after Johnson spoke with Cardinal alumna Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State.
“Hats off to Stanford,” Johnson said. “That was probably one of the best pitches I’ve had in a long time, but at the end of the day, it just came down to what I’m really looking for in grad school. … I’ve always been balancing academics and basketball my whole life, so UCLA, I feel like, has a greater balance of the two.”
As a bonus, Johnson gets to play close to home since he grew up in Long Beach and attended Long Beach Poly High. He said he intended to head home from the East Coast after completing a senior project due May 7. A repeat Big Ten All-Academic honoree, Johnson will enroll in the electrical and computer engineering graduate program at UCLA.
Johnson will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after averaging 8.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 24.7 minutes per game last season. His presence will solidify a frontcourt that’s expected to include returning starter Cody Riley and reserves Mac Etienne and Kenneth Nwuba.
Johnson said the development of Riley’s 15-foot jumper as a critical component of UCLA’s run to the Final Four was a big selling point considering that he was often confined to mostly a defensive role at Rutgers.
“I could see myself expanding my offensive game a lot and they needed a defensive center and that’s kind of what I am, what I bring to the table,” Johnson said, “so it just kind of fits both ways.”
The 6-3 Andrews is rated as the fifth-best player from California in his class by 247Sports and No. 21 nationally. He’s a versatile player known for readily shifting between passing and scoring while putting his team’s needs first.
“Dylan’s style is a blend of aggressive playmaking with a high skill set that makes him extremely hard to guard,” said Colin Pfaff, Andrews’ coach at Windward. “His athleticism and competitive spirit equates to winning at any level. Dylan Andrews is an absolute pleasure to coach.”
Andrews becomes the second player to commit to UCLA coach Mick Cronin from the Class of 2022, joining Amari Bailey, a combo guard from Sierra Canyon Chatsworth High. Andrews picked the Bruins over Oregon, Arizona, North Carolina, Arizona State, Louisville, Kansas and Stanford.
In his commitment reveal video, Andrews takes off a Compton Magic shirt to reveal a UCLA one underneath.
“Let’s get ready to make the city go crazy,” Andrews says in the video.
Cronin cannot comment on high school players until they sign binding letters of intent. With Andrews, Bailey and Long Beach Poly guard Peyton Watson headed to UCLA, Cronin has landed some of the top Southern California prospects in each of the next two recruiting classes.
Unlike Johnson, anyone taking a wholly unscientific approach to guessing his destination could have noted the spirit animal he had listed on his Rutgers profile page: the bear.
“I made that my freshman year going to Rutgers,” Johnson said with a laugh, “so it’s kind of funny how that worked out.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.