UK recruit Jasper Johnson knows transfer to Link Academy was right move for him

Published 3:30 pm Friday, October 27, 2023

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Jasper Johnson thought transferring from Woodford County to Link Academy, a prep basketball powerhouse in Branson, Mo., would be a good move for his basketball career.

However, so far, it has turned out even better than he anticipated.

“I definitely think it benefits me being in the gym more. I can focus on my shot, and I am getting more consistent with it, which is a credit to Link and the work we are doing,” said Johnson. “I definitely feel like being at Link was the right decision for me. Talking with my family helped lead me on the right path, and this is just a step in my journey.”

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The 6-4 junior guard wants that journey to take him to the NBA eventually. He’s now one of only 10 five-star players currently in the 2025 recruiting class and continues to get scholarship offers weekly. He has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, Louisville, Missouri, North Carolina, Arizona State, Auburn, California, Cincinnati, Florida State, Indiana, LSU, Memphis, Texas A&M, USC and Xavier.

Johnson was at Big Blue Madness and liked the way the crowd was “into everything” going on.

“It was fun to see the players compete a little bit and I got to talk to Coach (John Calipari) a little about recruiting and he’s coming to see me again soon at Link,” Johnson said. “I have been feeling a lot of love from Kentucky. Coach Cal, (assistant) Orlando (Antigua) and (assistant) coach Chin (Coleman) came to see me about two weeks ago.

“They want to coach me and believe in me a lot. They talk a lot about what the program can mean to me long term. It’s not just basketball and a one-year deal with coach Cal. It’s always a good thing to talk to coach Cal.”

More coaches likely will be talking to him after his play at a recent USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado against 80 of the nation’s best prep players.

“I feel like I performed well against a bunch of high level players,” he said. “It was great to be out there and show others what I could do. Overall, I feel like I shot the ball very well. I tried to limit my dribbles and come off screens ready to shoot.”

He’s about ready to narrow his college list to 10 schools and has already made visits to several schools. Coaches reach out to his father, Dennis, a former UK all-SEC defensive end who is now Woodford County football coach/athletics director often. However, he’s not seriously considering reclassifying to the 2024 recruiting class as some have thought he might do.

One school that has made a bigger impression than some might expect, considering the offers Johnson has, is Georgia Tech and new coach Damon Stoudamire, a 13-year NBA veteran and a former college and NBA coach.

“I do love coach Stoudamire. They have communicated with me for a little while. The coaching staff really believes in me. I feel like in a couple of years the program will be on the rise and right at the top,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s rise the last nine months has been phenomenal. He helped Woodford County reach the state basketball tournament and advance to the semifinals. He shined in summer AAU play. His scholarship offers exploded. Now his national ranking/profile is climbing weekly.

“As a little kid, I used to always imagine being one of the top players in the nation. I knew I just had to keep putting in the work. I never wanted to be just one of the best players in the state. I wanted to be one of the best in the country,” he said.

Link could help him do that. It won the 2023 GEICO Nationals championship in April and the roster is loaded again this year. Five-star Tre Johnson, the former No. 1 ranked player in the 2024 class, and Kansas commit Labaron Philon also moved to Link this season. Arkansas commit Jalen Shelley and five-star prospect Aaron Rowe are also at Link.

“We really are loaded. We have the best backcourt in the country, and we are going to be hard to stop. I think we will be really good,” Johnson said. “I have to lock in every possession in practice. We are going to be playing games against the best teams across the country, and that only makes you better.”