Seven weeks ago, 2013 shooting guard Jajuan Johnson was ready to commit to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Anthony Grant’s program had been on the 6-foot-4 wing the longest of any schools, and Marquette, a school Johnson had always been interested in playing for, had recently pulled back on their recruitment after a shake-up with the coaching staff.
But a phone call from then-newly hired assistant Isaac Chew changed everything, and this afternoon Johnson pledged his commitment to Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles.
Chew flew down from Milwaukee to Memphis to meet with Johnson and his mother, Shaun Williams. Chew asked for 10 minutes of the family’s time, and what he said in those 600 seconds apparently made all the difference.
“It was the best conversation we had with any coach,” Shaun Williams said. “Coach Chew really got up to speed, he showed intensity recruiting Jajuan and made him a priority.
“Up until then it had been all about Alabama.”
What sold Shaun Williams on Marquette’s program once Chew arrived was the relaxed yet focused attitude Chew and Buzz Williams showed in their meetings with the family.
So as Marquette became more of a factor in Johnson’s recruiting thanks to Chew’s efforts, an official visit was next in line. He made the decision to visit the Golden Eagles last during their Marquette Madness event. Before that, however, Johnson was able to take in a few Marquette practices.
And what sold Shaun on Marquette was Buzz’s passion in those practices.
“I love the intensity of Buzz Williams,” Shaun said.
In particular, Shaun remembered one practice where she thought the Marquette players were running as hard as they could. Buzz Williams, in usual Buzz Williams fashion, didn’t think it was good enough.
“What I wanted for Jajuan was a coach who was not going to allow him to be any less than the best,” Shaun said. “I wanted a coach who allows you to be you, but also brings out the best.”
But there was still the issue of distance.
One of the reasons Alabama was considered a likely destination for Johnson was that the campus in Tuscaloosa was a three-hour drive from his home in Memphis.
Johnson’s mother, however, would not let that become a factor.
“I told him, ‘If you go to Alabama, it’s going to be a three-hour drive. If you go to Marquette, it’s a three-hour flight. Either way, your mom can get to you.’”
Johnson originally was planning on waiting until the spring period to sign his national letter of intent. Shaun said that was the case because he still wanted to see how the coaches coached and the players played.
However, the official visit brought most of that to light, and Shaun said it’s no longer guaranteed that Jajuan will wait to sign. The family will sit down and talk about that decision next week.
“If he wants to sign, I’m 100 percent behind him.”
Jajuan Johnson wanted to be at Marquette, but it wasn’t until that call from Chew that the Golden Eagles became a potential destination. Once Chew had them back in the picture, it was a matter of forming a relationship that the Marquette coaching staff has done already with each of the other four recruits and families committed to the 2013 class.
“It was really great. Coach Chew and Coach Buzz, we did more laughing and giggling than we did talking about basketball,” Shaun said.
“The basketball part, it speaks for itself.”
Jajuan was unavailable for comment as he has three basketball games today. We’ll have a story with quotes from him sometime this weekend.