For Louisville basketball fans, it would’ve been an enjoyable preview of what Cards’ practices could look like in the near future.
For David Johnson and Josh Nickelberry, Saturday’s face-off at the Adidas Summer Championships in Southern California was a chance to size up a potential future college teammate.
“I really like his game,” Johnson said. “He’s a great shooter. He’s really aggressive. I can see him in the backcourt with me. He’s an all-around good player.”
Johnson, a Trinity High star who previously committed to Louisville before withdrawing his pledge last fall, is still very interested in playing for the Cards. Nickelberry pledged to play for Chris Mack and Louisville in late May.
Both are rising high school seniors ranked in the top 100 among Class of 2019 prospects across the country. They could be two key pieces in Mack’s first true recruiting class at Louisville.
“He’s good,” Nickelberry said. “He’s a good player, strong guard. He’s solid. I like him.”
Nickelberry’s team, Game Elite Gold out of Georgia, bested Johnson’s squad, Manimal Elite, knocking it out of the tournament. Game Elite Gold ran out to leads as big as 27 points before holding off a late rally and winning, 85-73.
Both Johnson and Nickelberry were impressive.
Johnson was 9 of 15 from the field, totaling 20 points to go with four assists and three rebounds. He was most effective getting into the lane and scoring around the basket. The 6-foot-5 Louisville native averaged 11.2 points, four assists and 3.8 rebounds per game over the weekend.
Nickelberry made six of his eight shots in the game, including a 3-pointer. He added four assists and finished with 17 points. He averaged 8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists over six games.
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“During the game, I imagine myself if they were on my team or if I were with them,” Johnson said. “… I think with anyone that can score, I can make them look good and myself look good with my passing.”
Both players insisted they were primarily focused on winning the game, though.
Johnson’s team went 3-2 in California, while Nickelberry’s finished 3-3.
“It’s all competition, really,” Nickelberry said. “I know who he is. He knows who I am. We’re going against each other.”
Whether they’ll be doing that more in college remains to be seen.
Nickelberry plans to make his official campus visit to Louisville in late September, and he said Saturday he believes Charlotte forward Jaelyn Withers may come with him that weekend.
Johnson has been on Louisville’s campus or at the KFC Yum Center numerous times over the years and is widely considered a likely Cards signee.
But he said last week he wants to sit down and evaluate his options after summer basketball ends. Both Georgia and Xavier have recruited him despite Louisville’s extensive efforts.
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Jeff Greer: 502-582-4044; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jeffgreer_cj. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/jeffg.