CLEMSON – Noel Johnson was given his first name because he was born on Christmas Eve.
His late addition to Clemson’s banner recruiting class amounts to Christmas in June for Tigers coach Oliver Purnell.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 185-pound wing from Fayetteville, Ga., committed to Clemson over Louisiana State on Friday night. He is rated as the nation’s No. 53 prospect by Rivals.com and No. 56 by Scout.com.
Regarded primarily for his 3-point shooting stroke, Johnson could immediately help fill the sudden void left by guard Terrence Oglesby’s unexpected and unplanned for decision to turn pro and play in Europe.
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“With Oglesby and K.C. Rivers gone, they really pushed that I’d be able to come in and help with my 3-point shooting,” Johnson said.
Johnson averaged 21 points and eight rebounds as a senior, shooting 58-for-177 (32.8 percent) from 3-point range in 29 games. As a junior, he led Fayette County High School to the 4A championship game, averaging 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
He joins what was already the highest-regarded class of Purnell’s tenure, an incoming trio that includes McDonald’s All-American Milton Jennings – a 6-9 swingman from Summerville – and 6-7 Union power forward Devin Booker, brother of senior standout Trevor Booker.
Johnson was only on the market this late in the recruiting period because three weeks ago, he was one of three Southern California signees released from their letters of intent amid the scandal that led to coach Tim Floyd’s resignation. Floyd is alleged to have paid $1,000 to a handler for former Trojans guard O.J. Mayo.
He said Clemson had recruited him since 10th grade, but it wasn’t until an unofficial visit Thursday that the Tigers moved to the forefront for his services.
On Tuesday, Johnson visited LSU – he has trained with former LSU star Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. He also visited UNLV, Charlotte and Florida International, and was not allowed to sign with another Pac-10 school per the conditions of his release.
He said Clemson won out because of his chemistry with the coaching staff, location (his family can make the drive from south of Atlanta to watch him play) as well as the prestige that comes with playing in the ACC.
“It all just seemed like the perfect fit,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s father is Lynbert “Cheese” Johnson – a former Wichita State standout who played briefly in the NBA. Johnson’s godfather is Columbia resident Xavier McDaniel, a former college teammate of Lynbert’s.
Before committing to Southern California, Johnson also considered Georgia Tech and Louisville.
He was the second-highest rated recruit still at-large behind 11th-ranked guard Lance Stephenson of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is saddled with legal issues.