5-star prospect A.J. Johnson is backing out of his commitment to the University of Texas and is headed to Australia.
Johnson told Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN on Thursday that he plans to sign with the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League.
The NBL’s Next Stars program famously helped develop LaMelo Ball during the 2019-20 season and has also brought along Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng in more recent seasons.
Johnson is currently considered a 2024 lottery selection, with Givony having him go No. 13 overall—three picks behind LeBron James’ son Bronny. The Southern California Academy guard said he felt the college game would be too structured to help in his development at the next level.
“The college environment is a bit more controlled and about X’s and O’s and not as much about playing off of feel and freedom,” Johnson said, per Eric Bossi of 247Sports. “I feel like I thrive in more of an up and down system, getting up more shots and playing off feel but you are also still playing off of actions and stuff like that. I also want to get started on my professional career and taking it more serious so that I can really lock in on the game and try to be the best player I can be.”
Johnson’s departure is a major blow for Texas, which was building its 2023 class around him and forward Ron Holland. While Holland is still expected to arrive in Austin next fall, coach Rodney Terry will now be tasked with developing the players already on the roster rather than banking on new arrivals.
Holland is the Longhorns’ only 2023 recruit remaining.