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Penn State basketball: Former top 75 recruit from PA to make transfer portal visit

Can Mike Rhoades land this former highly-rated recruit with PA roots?



Former top 75 recruit from PA, transfer portal, Penn State
Jan 17, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Puff Johnson (14) shoots as Boston College Eagles forward T.J. Bickerstaff (1) and guard Mason Madsen (45) defend in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Rhoades has been hard at work rebuilding his new-look Nittany Lion roster. In addition to re-recruiting several members of the Penn State roster, Rhoades has persuaded two of his former VCU Rams, Ace Baldwin and Nick Kern, to follow him to Happy Valley in recent weeks. On Thursday, the new coaching staff landed Temple’s Zach Hicks, the first transfer portal commitment from a player not formerly on the Penn State or VCU rosters. However, the biggest get may still be out there, as a former top 75 recruit from PA will be visiting Penn State this week.

Former top 75 recruit from PA in transfer portal to visit Penn State

Puff Johnson is a 6-8, 200-pound small forward originally from Moon Township just outside Pittsburgh. Johnson played his first three high school seasons at Moon Area High School before transferring to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, AZ, for his senior season, where he was coached by former NBA guard Mike Bibby. Rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports in 2020, Johnson was ranked as a top 75 player nationally by all the major recruiting outlets. Johnson committed to North Carolina, where his older brother, Brooklyn Nets forward Cameron Johnson, also played.

Johnson was never much more than a role player for the Tar Heels. His best year in Chapel Hill, Johnson averaged 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in less than 500 minutes of floor time last season. However, Johnson had one of the best performances of his North Carolina career in the 2022 national championship game, posting 11 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes of play.

Puff Johnson visited Butler last week after entering the transfer portal in March. As reported by Jon Rothstein, Johnson will visit Penn State this upcoming week. Pat Chamber’s coaching staff showed interest in Johnson in high school but never officially offered.

Can Mike Rhoades land the former Tar Heel with PA roots?

While his local ties probably keep Penn State in the running, the list of suitors for Johnson is long. Currently, On3 has the former top 75 prospect trending toward a commitment to Butler. So, unless this week’s visit goes tremendously well, I’d be surprised if Johnson landed at Penn State at this point in time. Nevertheless, it’s a major nod to Mike Rhoades and his staff to be in the thick of it with a transfer portal recruit of Johnson’s caliber, given the current condition of the Penn State basketball program. I view this as a positive sign for the new-look Nittany Lions moving forward.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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