LEXINGTON, Ky. — Remember that “mystery shooter” we told you Kentucky was interested in earlier this week? Mystery solved.
Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson has received his release from the Panthers and in turn received a scholarship offer from John Calipari and the Wildcats, who are in hot pursuit of an outside shooter to round out the 2017-18 roster. Johnson fits the bill, and a source tells SEC Country there is a “good chance” he ends up in Lexington.
He’s a 6-foot-8 guard who started all 33 games as a redshirt sophomore for Pitt last season — the Panthers went 16-17 overall and 4-14 in ACC play — averaging 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. More importantly, he sank 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts last season and has made 116 of 291 (39.9 percent) in his career.
There are lots of connections to Calipari and Johnson, who is from Moon Township, Pa., the Kentucky coach’s hometown, and whose father, Gilbert, played at Pitt when Calipari was a young assistant there in 1988. Johnson’s brother also plays for Clarion, Calipari’s alma mater.
And while Calipari has been outspoken in opposition of poaching graduate transfers from mid-major programs, Johnson is a different case: he’s from a power-conference program, has more than one year of eligibility remaining and wants out after a coaching change. He played one season under new Pitt coach Kevin Stallings before requesting a release.
Johnson was recruited by Ivy League programs and made the All-ACC Academic Team as a redshirt freshman.
He’s not Kentucky’s only option, however, as the Wildcats have extended a late offer to 4-star guard Mark Smith from Illinois and Calipari is headed to California today to visit 4-star guard Jemarl Baker. There might be room for both Johnson and a high school shooter — in addition to the increasing likelihood the Cats land 5-star big man Mohamed Bamba.
Consider: As it stands, UK has the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country. Add Bamba and any one of the three options at guard, and the hype will be out of control. Even after the departure of three seniors and underclassmen De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe declaring for the NBA draft.