Fayette’s Noel Johnson in play again

By DARRYL MAXIE / dmaxie@ajc.com

There’s a mess brewing at USC and Fayette County forward Noel Johnson wants no part of it.

The slender 6-foot-7 Fayette County basketball star has been granted a release from his letter of intent while the university braces itself for the fallout from accusations that coach Tim Floyd funneled cash to former star player O.J. Mayo through one of his handlers.

“Any time you have a kid that is starting his freshman year, you want him to go into a calmer setting rather than having a cloud over [his] head,” Noel’s father, Lynbert Johnson, told Scout.com. “[USC] was his No. 1 choice because he liked the school, coach Floyd and [assistant] coach [Bob] Cantu. But the fact remains that you can’t move that cloud.”

Johnson’s about-face is just the latest blow for USC. Its top three scorers left school. Its top three recruits — of which Johnson certainly was one — aren’t coming. Renardo Sidney signed with Mississippi State instead after USC started feeling queasy about the center’s background. Solomon Hill reversed course and signed with rival Arizona instead.

Where Johnson ends up now is anybody’s guess, though rivals.com has speculated that Georgia Tech — which landed another player released from an LOI (Daniel Miller, thanks to Georgia’s coaching change) — will be considered.


South Paulding cornerback Ryan Ayers is making it clear that, although Georgia Tech has recruited him first and best, he has not committed to any school. He has visited Georgia Tech, but will finally have something to compare it to this weekend.

“Georgia has turned it up on me this spring, and that is going to be my first trip this weekend,” Ayers told ugasports.com. “I do not know much about the program, but I am going to ask the questions that I need to.”


Woodward Academy hasn’t won a football state championship since 1980, hasn’t recorded back-to-back, double-digit-win seasons since 1996-97. But astute college recruiters seldom confuse team results with individual talent, which is why more than a few have made their way to College Park.

On the private school campus, Henry Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Delino DeShields have combined for 31 scholarship offers, according to assistant coach Ryan Davis. More are all but certain to come.

Anderson, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound defensive end/tight end, leads the way with 17 offers. The most recent to offer are Boston College, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. There’s an ample market for a guy who had 70 tackles, including seven sacks, and helped his team to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

Thompson, a 5-11, 212-pound running back, rushed for 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He has nine offers, with Minnesota, Syracuse and Wake Forest his most recent suitors.

Georgia Tech is among the five schools who have offered DeShields, a fleet-footed 5-9, 185-pound athlete who can outrun just about anything except his name. Not that he should want to: He is the son of the former major league second baseman of the same name, and like his father possesses outstanding baseball skills. Even as a 12-year-old four years ago, the young DeShields drew raves from Baseball America: “There’s not another player in the country as athletic as this kid. He is one of the strongest 12-year-olds … and he is the fastest.”


At least four Southwest DeKalb players are being courted with scholarship offers, but don’t expect any commitments any time soon. “It’s a tradition around here to wait,” defensive end T.J. Stripling told rivals.com. “Coach [Buck] Godfrey doesn’t want us to commit early because he wants us to stay humble.” Running back Kendrun Malcome, cornerback Jonathan Mincy and safety Sharrad Golightly likely will take their time, though Malcome has expressed a desire to visit West Virginia.

Malcome is among three Peach State running backs being pursued by Florida. The highest-profile ball carrier of those Florida is after is M.L. King’s Mack Brown. But the Gators are also after Loganville’s Storm Johnson, too.


Somebody at the SEC spring meetings actually asked Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin how his 2010 recruiting class was looking — as if the man whose program stumbled across two minor NCAA violations for being too publicly forthcoming in such matters was really going to answer. Well, Kiffin did, according to The State: “Obviously, that would be another violation [if he were to talk about specific players]. I’m trying to go one week without that.”

33 comments Add your comment

Joe Schmoe

May 27th, 2009
10:36 am

If CPH can pick up Noel, then he has to have the best recruting class in the country. Problem is CPH is the coach, and not just the recruiter. Ayers is still up in the area. I honestly don’t know where he would go, but would be a great pick up for tech.


May 27th, 2009
10:58 am

Ayers, take your time and do what is best for you.
GT is a great school. Sometimes (if a popular team is visiting, there is almost 40,000 there on a Saturday. With Tech you get to play on some Thursday nights.

UGA is a great school too. 90,000 will watch you in person every week. National TV games EVERY week will also be fun. UGA plays only on Saturday afternoons (Boise State and GT have the Thursday market).

GA Tech Insider

May 27th, 2009
11:06 am

And so it begins…dap01, I will say this about you, at least you’re trying to be subtle.

How about we try to keep this one civil people, shall we?

Ryan’s a great kid and we should all hope that he stays in State. We all know that if he does, he’ll get a great education and will have an opportunity to play for a great Coach on a great Team.


May 27th, 2009
11:23 am

will we have another scholarship for noel if wants to join the crew


May 27th, 2009
11:41 am

Ryan should take his time and decide strictly based on what is best for him. I hope he makes a wise decision and enjoys life with no regrets.

As far as the rabid UGA fans who consistently try to diminish GT (see dap01 comments above); these same guys will turn on the players in a heartbeat. We all have seen how some of the more rabid UGA fans try to sweet talk potential recruits on the various blogs…….then they attack like crazy if the player commits somewhere other than UGA OR they throw the player “under the bus” and completely trash them if they commit to UGA and do not meet or exceed expectations. This approach will inevitably begin to hurt UGA in recruiting. Basic life principles in play here: If a person lives right and attempts to do what they know is best, things work out well in the long run. If a person is always negative and attempts to scam, bully or take advantage of people/situations……things seem to come around in the long run (karma or just the fact that people make thier own “luck” based on decisions and personal actions?). Wow a little deep for a sports related blog I guess….maybe someone out there needed to hear these words and I was simply being used to present the truth!

Go GT & Good Luck to Ryan!


May 27th, 2009
11:43 am

Go to UGA son. Be the next Nique.


May 27th, 2009
11:53 am

GT Grad, Don’t be so foolish as to think a player gets mad or hurt when a fan base gets mad that he doesn’t commit to their school. That, in fact, helps the school with the pride and support that a fan base shows for their school via lets say….ticket sales. Something Tech is not very good at according to the outsourcing of the tickets. So while you stay with your “basic life principles” UGA is going to keep supporting and sell tickets without the help of the Bernie.


May 27th, 2009
12:01 pm

I can see why Noel Johnson would want to join the current recruiting class at GT. He would be part of a class which is already superb…..his addition would make the class even better. Adding his abilities (4 star player ranked as the #11 small forward in the nation) to this class would solidify GT as a serious contender for the next 3-4 years. The GT basketball team will already be a Top 10 team in the near future; adding Noel would place GT in serious contention for legitimate National Championship runs!!

Even after all of these statements above, I still hope Noel takes his time and makes the best decision for him and his family (regardless of where he decides to attend college and play hoops).

Go GT & Good Luck to Noel!!


May 27th, 2009
12:53 pm

GT Grad, you do know that most of these guys will bolt to the NBA after their 1st year, right? If not for the NBA rules barring high school kids from jumping to the pros, Favors and a few of the other kids wouldn’t be coming to Tech.

pensacola dawg

May 27th, 2009
1:20 pm

Ditto Clint! So if all he wants is to sit thru some pre-algebra classes and tech and bolt to the NBA like Favors then techs for him. Probable won’t win anything with that fine coach .

Delusional Clint

May 27th, 2009
1:59 pm

Clint, GT always out recruits you. And yes, they’d still come here. The only guy that you have really beat GT out for in years is the mighty Trey Thompkins.


May 27th, 2009
2:03 pm

I am a rabid UGA fan and i think GA Tech insider has the best comment yet. As a young man trying to decide his future, at this point with the way GT has turned the program around he couldnt go wrong with either choice. That goes for both education and athletics. The only difference is its two different lifestyles…. athens compared to atlanta that is


May 27th, 2009
3:43 pm

Noel Johnson to GT? That has to be a joke. Coach Paul Hewitt personally yanked Johnson’s scholarship offer. Insiders at GT said 4 of GT’s commits, now signees, indicated to GT coaches that if Noel signed with GT they wouldn’t. Those in the know about GT basketball say Hewitt wanted no part of Johnson’s attitude and entourage’. This isn’t my rhetoric, it was posted numerous times on national recruiting boards by GT fans and followers who contended Hewitt ended the recruiting by withdrawing GT’s offer.

The other factor is the recent NCAA report on APR which stripped GT of 2 scholarships. GT does not have any way to bring Johnson on board.

Based upon the certainty of those who posted such on various sites that CPH personally rescinded the GT scholarship offer, and knowing GT needs to serve its NCAA punishment with only carrying 11 scholarshipped players, Noel Johnson won’t be signing with GT.


May 27th, 2009
4:07 pm

Georgia Tech served its 2 scholarship punishment last season. The athletics dept. anticipated the APR being low, so they went ahead and took the scholarships away already. GT will have a scholarship available if they really want Noel. Could see him going to Louisville. His rankings were 1. USC 2. Louisville 3. GT.


May 27th, 2009
4:17 pm

Delusional, all that outrecruiting has gotten you what exactly? Tech is no better than UGA is in basketball year in and year out. You can get all the stud recruits you want, but until that joke of a coach yall have is gone, the results will be the same. Tech wastes more talent than most programs get. Look at all the players you’ve had drafted to the NBA. How has Tech not at least won a piece of an ACC title?

Roy Williams

May 27th, 2009
4:35 pm

I heard today from an asst coach in Pac-10 who tried to recruit Noel that LSU is the frontrunner with GT definitely in the picture.

Fayette Hoops Fan

May 27th, 2009
4:42 pm

attitude and entourage? Who are you talking about? The only Noel I know is the one who is a NCAA 2 or 3 that just spent the last two years playing in the post for an elite Fayette County team. Especially this year, Noel passed first. Defenses collapsed on him and he dished to Adam Smith and Malcolm Brogdon who often carried Fayette’s scoring. That’s really some “attitude” that the soft-spoken honor student is putting on display.

And what entourage? His parents? Cheese (his dad) came to every game, but the only other hanger-ons I ever saw were coaches and recruiters. I saw Paul Hewitt in the stands at Fayette County a couple of times. Was he perhaps part of this supposed entourage?

I’d love to see Noel join fellow peach-state stars Favors and Udofia at Tech (and maybe they could convince freak-of-nature Steven Hill to come back to the basketball court where he belongs). Still, don’t rule out Memphis. Noel might head there with Latavious Williams and possibly Lance Stephenson.

Fayette Hoops Fan

May 27th, 2009
4:44 pm

RW, I also heard that LSU was near the top of his list.

Louisville did go after him in the early going. I saw Pitino in Fayetteville as well.


May 27th, 2009
4:55 pm

Clint-Are you being serious or are you just talking? Two Reg season titles and three ACC Tourney Championships. The program is down but to say it is even with the debacle at Stegman that you call a team is humorous at best.


May 27th, 2009
5:15 pm

To give clint a little bit of an arguement UGA did win the SEC tourney recently. How? I’m not sure

Gator Nation

May 27th, 2009
5:50 pm



May 27th, 2009
6:28 pm

It doesn’t matter how much talent GT gets — Hewitt can’t coach them up and make them better. He is a joke as a coach in the ACC.


May 27th, 2009
6:29 pm

MB, how many has PH won at Tech? His best finish has been a tie for 3rd the year they made it to the NCAA championship game. Hewitt’s record at Tech is 153-129. UGA’s in that same time frame is 145-132.

Joe Schmoe

May 27th, 2009
6:46 pm

I agree that CPH is a joke, but to put the farmers in the same basketball leauge as the Jackets is a laughable thought!


May 27th, 2009
8:43 pm

When is USC going to get in any trouble?

If they were in the SEC, or the South at all, they would be facing the death penalty. They have literally had professional athletes on campus for the last 4-5 years and have gotten nothing done to them.

SEC schools go on probation for getting a kid a hotel room.

It’s unreal what the Trojans can get away with because they are the only NFL team in L.A.

savannah dog

May 28th, 2009
6:34 pm

We need this kid in athens.

Come on coach,lets see how good you really are at recruiting.
There is no doubt you can outcoach Hewitt.Bring this kid home


May 28th, 2009
9:37 pm

Fox hasn’t outcoached a soul yet.


May 28th, 2009
10:47 pm

So wait lemme get this straight USC has been giving players money to come and play for them? I wonder if this goes beyond b-ball to other sports like football…I knew all along that the condoms were cheats. I knew it and now we can prove it.

Mr. Sanchez

May 29th, 2009
11:06 am

for a potential one year college player, it seems pretty unlikely Johnson would want to stay in Atlanta where he’d have to compete with Shumpert, Storrs, Bell, Oliver, and Rice for playing time. LSU, among others, have a much more obvious need to fill minutes and more opportunity for Johnson to show his skills if he’s wanting to make the jump to the NBA asap.


May 30th, 2009
7:56 pm

Clint your argument about the record is silly. GT plays in the ACC and GT consistetly plays a tough schedule. UGA plays in the SEC and usually does not schedule good non-SEC opponents.


June 1st, 2009
5:16 pm

I think Noel would look good in a UNLV uniform, myself. Reeeeebels.


June 2nd, 2009
12:43 pm

ahhhh…..these other schools that underestimate a school like UNLV…..Noel may not even know how much he’ll love UNLV until he’s walking around the Thomas and Mack concourse, see the history, see the advertisement for the NBA summer league, etc…. So many a recruit have come doubtful and left committed. Go Rebels! Love to see this kid in the scarlet and grey next year!


June 3rd, 2009
1:34 pm

If Noel Johnson is as good as he thinks he is, then he won’t worry about coming to GT and competing for PT. Do you think competing against top talent for PT keeps kids away from UNC or Duke?