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Johnson’s stock rises ahead of NBA draft

SoVaNow.com / June 19, 2019

Keldon Johnson is a household name around Mecklenburg County, especially for anyone who is a Kentucky Wildcats fan, a fan of Park View Dragons basketball or follows the NBA.

The South Hill native and Wildcats 6’6, 215-pound swing forward, who just finished his freshman season at Kentucky, is expected to go high in the 2019 NBA Draft. The draft takes place Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Barclays Center in New York and will be carried live on ESPN.

For those who follow Johnson and know him or his family, the fact that he is on the cusp of reaching a lifelong goal comes as little surprise. Recently, Johnson attended a Washington Wizards pre-draft workout, showing a very solid and knowledgeable game by all accounts.

At that workout, Johnson said he felt the NBA was the next logical step in his career after being named SEC Freshman of the Year at Kentucky. He also was named second team All-SEC.

He’s confident in his ability to compete at the professional level. “I feel like I work extremely hard,” Johnson said. “I put hours into the gym, countless hours. I stay in the gym all the time. So why wouldn’t I be confident in my craft?”

While some analyst and projections have bounced around as to how high or low Johnson will go in the draft, the fact remains — Johnson is going regardless. Over the past month, several mock drafts had Johnson being picked in the latter part of the first round, perhaps around the 20th pick or further down the draft order. Some major sports media outlets are sticking to those projections.

But in recent days, the tide of opinion on Johnson appears to be changing — in favor of him going much earlier.

CatsPause.com, which is about all things Kentucky Wildcats, was quick to make that point. In an article by Chris Fisher posted Tuesday (yesterday) on 247sports.com, he stated that a Monday tweet by the Indianapolis Star NBA reporter J. Michael lends support to the belief that Johnson may go further up in the first round.

“Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) is a player #Pacers hoped to interview at predraft camp and work out,” the Indy Star team reporter noted in the tweet. “Neither happened, according to Player Personnel Director Ryan Carr. I’m told Johnson, who has gotten high marks from many during this process in my convos, won’t be on the board at 18.”

Michael adding, “When I say high praise, for the last month Keldon Johnson is the name I’ve had mentioned most — unprompted — as a steal he goes late lottery or teens.”

Fisher goes on to say that Johnson has worked out or will work out for “the Boston Celtics (Nos. 14, 20, 22), Orlando Magic (No. 16), Miami Heat (No. 13), Washington Wizards (No. 9), Charlotte Hornets (No. 12) and Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 11). Johnson has also become a popular pick for the Detroit Pistons at No. 15 in several mock drafts.”

A 247sports.com article published on Tuesday by Evan Daniels and Josh Gershon shows that the two writers have Johnson at No. 15. Though they are quick to remind their tally isn’t a mock draft, but their ordering of players as NBA prospects.

Local fans may be rooting for Johnson to go to the Wizards or maybe Charlotte —especially considering these teams’ relative proximity to South Hill.

Starting 36 of 37 games for Kentucky last season, Johnson ranked third in both scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding (5.9 rebounds per game) while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range, making 45 3-pointers on the year en route to being named SEC Freshman of the Year. He scored a team-high 23 points in the season opener vs. Duke, a career-high 27 vs. Tennessee State, 19 in a win over No. 1 Tennessee and 25 in a first round NCAA Tournament win over Abilene Christian.

Local sports fans can remember Johnson excelling at middle school, high school, AAU, prep school basketball — prep school coming his junior year of high school when he moved from PVHS to Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) — and at Kentucky. But just as much, his local fan base wants to see Johnson continue his quest to be an NBA player and champion.

As for where Johnson will go in the draft, for right now that’s anyone’s guess. But if Johnson holds true to the same person he has always been, wherever he goes he will bring improvement. He was just raised that way, to succeed.



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