Johnson commits to Notre Dame
HUNTINGTON --Wednesday was Huntington St. Joe girls basketball player Mychal Johnson's 17th birthday, but it was a different Irish team receiving a big present.
Johnson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, verbally committed Tuesday to the University of Notre Dame after taking a weekend visit.
Ironically, the last person who thought she'd commit this early was Johnson herself.
"Going up there, I didn't think that anything would change. I just thought it was a regular visit and that I'd probably take a couple more later on. I stayed in a player's dorm, so I texted my parents and told them I really liked it. The next day, we talked about it on the ride home and I told Scott (her father) I wanted to go there.
"I didn't really plan it out to be the day before my birthday, but it worked out too."
Johnson is rated No. 21 overall for the Class of 2014 and has led Huntington St. Joe to the last two of its four consecutive Class A championships in West Virginia.
Touted as one of the most versatile girls basketball players in the nation, Johnson is coming off a sophomore season when she averaged 16 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 4.9 steals per game for the Irish. That versatility gained her instant national recognition and she has been heavily recruited by several top-tier teams over the past two years.
On her campus visit Johnson had photos taken with Notre Dame All-American Skylar Diggins posted on her social media accounts. She also got to speak with Diggins twice while on the visit.
Johnson, who friends say strongly resembles the Notre Dame star, will now follow in Diggins' footsteps as a highly-touted combo guard to suit up in South Bend, Ind.
It was an opportunity she simply couldn't pass up after talking to the coaching staff about it.
"Their coaches were talking to me about how she's leaving and another shooter is leaving," Johnson said. "I could be the next her because that's what they'll need."
Following in the footsteps of one of women's basketball's icons might be intimidating for some players, but Johnson welcomes that pressure.
"It is pressure, but I have played all my life and basketball is what I know and love," Johnson said. "I'm going to do what I have to do at the collegiate level."
Johnson was all smiles while talking about the commitment, even joking that as a kid she vowed to never wear a similar color scheme to the one she's worn for years at St. Joe.
"I was like, I'm never going to be blue and yellow or blue and white because I had been at St. Joe but now I'm blue and gold and I'm Irish," Johnson said. "It's kind of funny actually."
Those aren't the only similarities to St. Joe, Johnson said.
One of the biggest aspects that swayed her recruitment had to do with the feel of life on campus -- much like what she's experienced in the Tri-State.
"When you get up there, it's like a family feeling," Johnson said. "That's one of the reasons that I liked it. I felt safe there. Especially with being away from my family, that is one of the things that I was looking for."
Johnson said she was happy to get the recruitment process out of the way and can focus on her goal of winning four consecutive Class A championships at St. Joe before she graduates.
And there won't be any more visits to take either. She's firm in her commitment to Notre Dame.
That is a statement that has all Irish eyes smiling.