UK Basketball: Dakari Johnson said he is excited to be a Wildcat
Kentucky signee Dakari Johnson (41), shown here practicing for tonight¿s McDonald¿s All-American game in Chicago, says he is excited to join the best recruiting class in history next season. (Joe Robbins/McDonald's / April 1, 2013)
He averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shot per game for Montverde Academy in Florida this season. He’s a New York native but also lived in Lexington for a brief time in junior high before his family moved to New Jersey.
He’s playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game here Wednesday night — one of at least six future Cats in the game on ESPN — and spent time after practice Tuesday talking about UK, his play, future teammates and even ping pong:
Question: How excited are you about coming to Kentucky as part of the all-time highest ranked recruiting class?
Johnson: “It is great. I have been with my future teammates all week, and it’s real exciting. I wanted to go play with all the great players and I knew if I went to Kentucky that nothing would be handed to me. They wouldn’t just give me a starting position. I will have to work for it.”
Question: How big an advantage could it be for six of you to play together in all-star games and start adjusting to the way each other plays like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer did two years ago?
Johnson: “It could be huge. We are getting used to each other right now and it looks like we are clicking so far. It could give us an advantage.”
Question: Are the other future Wildcats — Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee and James Young — better than you even expected?
Johnson: “I have known them for AAU events, so I know they are all great players and that will make me better as a player.”
Question: Do people normally tell you that you are bigger than they thought but that you also run the court better than they expected?
Johnson: “I hear that a lot. I am not really a highlight guy and fly through the air and dunk on people. I just play the game that I love and play it well.”
Question: What is your reaction to knowing that center Willie Cauley-Stein is coming back for a second season at UK?
Johnson: “It is great. I think he helps me as a player. We are two different players. He is more athletic than me and I am more the non-athletic guy and more skilled. But he is a real good player. I think we will complement each other well. In practice we are going to have to have battles and that will make me a better player.”
Question: What if that means more time on the bench for you?
Johnson: “It doesn’t matter to me. I am just all about winning.”
Question: When you lived in Lexington, did you dream of playing for Kentucky and did you pay much attention to UK basketball then?
Johnson: “I was too young to think about it. As I got better, I always knew Kentucky was the right fit for me. I knew Kentucky basketball was a big deal when I was young. It was like a pro team. I went to a lot of games at Kentucky. I like that atmosphere. It puts a lot of pressure on you, but that’s what I want because pressure makes me a better player.”
Question: How hard was coach Kevin Boyle on you the year you sat out as a transfer from New Jersey to Montverde Academy in Florida?
Johnson: “He was really hard at first. I was like really mad that I wouldn’t be able to play. I just worked hard and got where I am right now. I lost about 25 or 30 pounds. I worked hard every single day just for this moment to be a McDonald’s All-American. He’s one of the best high school coaches in America. What is better than to learn from him? We went down there for a visit and the school is just a great school. It is somewhere you can go and get your studies together and really prepare for college.”