Sometimes, things go so well for Tre Johnson and his Lake Highlands High School boys’ basketball team, that requests for photos come in before the game is even over.
It’s a mid-January night in Dallas, and Johnson and Lake Highlands are pulverizing Irving in a home district game.
The score is 86-18 in favor of Lake Highlands after the third quarter, when a handful of teenagers hang around the Lake Highlands dugout, proposing to ask Johnson, the top rookie in the class of 2024, for a photo, probably assuming his work is done for the night.
They are wrong.
Johnson returned to the game to start the fourth quarter to put up the finishing touches in a game of 24 points, scored in just 19 minutes.
“He’s a guy who lives in the gym, he really works at it,” she said Ani Human, the director of 5-State Hoop Report and a Texas-based talent evaluator. “Quite private, but also competitive at the same time”.
After the game, there was plenty of photo time for the best high school kids in the nation, and a player destined to become a recruiting target for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard, will be making an official visit to Lexington this weekend for the United Kingdom’s game against defending national champion Kansas.
The Wildcats’ pursuit of Johnson looks different now than it did just a few weeks ago, with Ian Jackson, the UK’s top backcourt recruit in 2024, committed to North Carolina.
Another backcourt recruit to the British Class of 2024, Tahaad Pettiford, will commit Feb. 1 and is not expected to pick Kentucky.
But with mutual interest between Johnson and the Wildcats, Kentucky’s history of turning Dallas-area players into future NBA stars, and the UK’s newest Texas-focused recruiter in position, Kentucky could imagine its chances with the player seen as the finest in his class right now.
Johnson is the top recruit by consensus in 2024
Across the board, Johnson is currently ranked the top men’s college basketball recruit in the class of 2024.
ESPN, On3, Rivals and 247Sports all have Johnson ranked #1 among high school kids, and with good reason. Johnson makes high-level shots from all over the court, but particularly from three-point range and mid-range.
His body also has the structure to hold more muscle and weight over time, and he probably isn’t done growing yet.
“He has ample shoulder length so you can put weight on him and it’s not going to impact his athleticism or anything,” Umana said. “So adding weight won’t be an issue with his frame.”
“When you see Tre, you can tell his frame isn’t fully filled, his body isn’t fully matured,” added 247Sports analyst Brandon Jenkins, who specializes in recruiting in Texas. “There’s another level that he can tap into in terms of not only his athleticism that he keeps kicking off, but also picking and choosing his offensive spots for efficiency.”
Johnson learned to play game-winning basketball while being the main target of opposing defenses on a Lake Highlands team with state title ambitions in the Texas big school rankings.
Though Irving didn’t lay the toughest test for Johnson and Lake Highlands earlier this month, the Herald-Leader was still able to see firsthand the skills that separated Johnson from other players at the top of the 2024 class .
It’s easy to see how Johnson projects to scale well to the college level given his shooting ability.
Johnson plays with poise and precision, and while the full dribbling package may not be there yet, his shooting more than makes up for it.
“He has really good footwork and balance, especially when navigating tight spaces,” Umana said. “She’s always in control. Even though he takes hard shots, he still has his footwork together, which allows him to get up, set up and score.
“He’s one of those dudes who can play off the ball and make long-range leaps and influence the game with his length and his ability to stretch the floor,” Jenkins said.
Those skills also showed themselves last August in Chicago, when the Herald-Leader watched Johnson participate in a private scrimmage in front of NBA scouts at the Under Armor Next Elite 24 event.
Johnson may be the latest North Texas recruit to the UK
Johnson’s recruiting so far has a distinctly local flavor, but that doesn’t mean Kentucky is far behind.
Before his scheduled trip to Lexington this weekend, Johnson has already made a couple visits as a junior: to Texas in September and to Baylor in October.
But new Kentucky assistant coach KT Turner has close personal ties to Johnson and his family.
Tre’s father, Richard Johnson, detailed this connection to the Herald-Leader last August.
There is also an established recruiting pipeline leading up to Turner between the Kentucky and Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
North Texas British stars include current Wildcat Cason Wallace (Richardson), Tyrese Maxey (South Garland) and Julius Randle (Plano).
Maxey told the Herald-Leader in August that he watched Johnson grow into an elite player in the DFW super-talented hoops scene.
“I know Tre a little bit, and I’ve known him for a while since I grew up and passed through the DFW area,” Maxey said. “I’ve been watching him since he was younger and it’s great to see him progressing, getting better every single day and every single year. Now I can get recruited by the most famous schools and even a school I went to. It’s just amazing.
Is there any advice that 22-year-old Maxey, who is averaging over 21 points per game this season for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, looks to move up to the still up-and-coming Johnson?
“I tell him, of course, I want him to go to Kentucky, but I just want him to be successful,” Maxey said. “The ultimate goal is to be the best it can be. It’s very nice just to see him and I wish him the best.