|(utsports.com) Wednesday was an historic day for the Tennessee basketball program, as the Volunteers received signed National Letters of Intent from three elite prospects who compose one of the most outstanding recruiting classes in program history.
Five-star prospects Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer and four-star prospect Corey Walker Jr. give Tennessee a signing class that is ranked as high as No. 4 nationally by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. All three of those services also list Tennessee’s three signees among the top 40 prospects in the Class of 2020.
“The combined talent and potential of Keon, Corey and Jaden is really exciting,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “All three of them fit the culture of this program and come from incredible families who have provided wonderful support and guidance to get them to this point. It’s our responsibility now to help each of them take the next steps in their individual development—not only athletically but also as men.”
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All three signees are expected to enroll in the summer of 2020 and will be freshmen next season.
Including current Vols freshman Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee has now signed four top-40 prospects during the Barnes era (2015-present).
An explosive shooting guard who attends The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, Keon Johnson is rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee and is the state’s two-time reigning Division II-A Mr. Basketball.
Johnson is rated as a top-35 prospect nationally (Rivals No. 18, 247Sports No. 23, ESPN No. 33).
As a junior last season, the slashing guard helped lead The Webb School to the TSSAA Div. II-A state semifinals and a 29-7 record while averaging 24.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. He is coached at Webb by Jeff Mitchell.
Johnson’s stock rose dramatically following stellar play at the 2018 Rocky Top Classic AAU tournament, during which he starred for the Elite Amateur Basketball (EAB) program. Tennessee basketball VFL Mark Griffin (1984-89) served as an EAB assistant coach.
During the summer of 2019, Johnson averaged 21.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and shot an impressive .490 from the field in seven games during the 2019 Adidas Gauntlet. He was also named MVP of USA Basketball’s annual summer mini-camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in July, where he competed against many of the best high school basketball players from across the country.
His quickness off the dribble allows Johnson to get to the rim at will, while his elite vision and passing make him a threat to always find an open teammate on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Johnson has a rare mix of agility and size that make him capable of defending smaller, quicker guards, along with matching up with bigger, athletic forwards.
“Keon is truly an elite athlete—one of the most explosive, two-way players in the country at the high school level,” Barnes said. “We’re excited about what he brings on both ends of the floor and expect that he’ll make an immediate impact.”
ESPN projects Johnson as the 13th overall pick in its most recent 2021 NBA mock draft.
Johnson is the son of former Auburn women’s basketball standout Conswella Sparrow Johnson, who was a two-time All-SEC performer for the Tigers.
A versatile shooting guard who currently attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Jaden Springer is rated as a top-20 prospect nationally (Rivals No. 15, ESPN No. 16, 247Sports No. 16).
As a junior at IMG—where he is coached by Sean McAloon—Springer helped lead the Ascenders to the 2019 Geico High School National Championship while averaging 18.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Before his time at IMG, he was a two-year starter at Rocky River High School in Mint Hill, North Carolina. There, he averaged 23.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists, while also showing prowess on the defensive side of the ball, tallying more than one steal and one block per game.
The physically gifted wing is an excellent athlete with a high motor who can make and finish plays above the rim. He also is a consistent threat to score via his pull-up game. His length and quickness make him an asset on the defensive side of the court, where he can effectively defend multiple positions.
“Jaden will provide outstanding ball-handling and scoring ability,” Barnes said. “Much like Keon, Jaden is someone who will immediately make us better on both ends of the floor. I love his competitiveness. He’s a winner.”
NBAdraftroom.com projects Springer as the 19th overall pick in its most recent 2021 NBA mock draft.
His father, Gary Springer Sr., was an honorable mention All-American in basketball at Iona College and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984. Jaden Springer’s older brother, Jordan, played basketball at Army (West Point) and is currently serving in the U.S. Army.
COREY WALKER JR.
Considered a top-40 prospect nationally (Rivals No. 33, 247Sports No. 36, ESPN No. 39), Walker currently attends Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, though he is originally from Hastings, Florida.
Walker attended Bishop Snyder High School in Jacksonville, Florida, as a junior in 2018-19 and was a first-team Class 4A All-State selection by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches (FABC) and Source Hoops. He was a third-team selection as a sophomore in 2017-18.
He is coached at Hargrave by Lee Martin, and his coaches at Bishop Snyder were Vince Martin and Russell Powell.
A high-level athlete with excellent length, Walker boasts great positional versatility. He can play on the wing while also taking advantage of mismatches in the post. He rebounds at a high level and can absorb contact. His versatility may be his most significant asset, and he projects to be an extremely productive player who can stuff a stat sheet.
“Corey is one of the most naturally gifted offensive players in this class nationwide,” Barnes said. “We’re very optimistic about his potential and expect that his game will rise to a different level once he becomes immersed in our daily culture and work ethic. He certainly has the capacity to make big contributions to our team success as a freshman.”