Former Moon Area High School star Donovan “Puff” Johnson was one of Pitt head coach Jeff Capel’s top recruiting priorities for the better part of the past year. However, Capel’s effort ultimately failed to pay off, as the native of the Pittsburgh area opted to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Cameron Johnson, and announced his commitment to ACC rival North Carolina on Tuesday night.
Top 50 prospect Puff Johnson just verbally committed to North Carolina, he tells @247Sports | Story: https://t.co/h2B14hyIhp pic.twitter.com/zh2Qjw9mRF— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) November 6, 2019
Johnson included Pitt and North Carolina in a top seven he released on Aug. 3, with the other five schools being Arizona, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State. The 6’7”, 185-pound small forward also drew offers from Auburn, Cincinnati, Maryland, TCU, Virginia Tech and Xavier during his recruitment but cut ties with those programs in the summer.
ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports all consider Johnson a four-star small forward who is among the top 75 recruits in the 2020 class and the top 20 players at his position. However, of note for Pitt with regard to Johnson is the fact that the team is well stocked at small forward, with Justin Champagnie, Gerald Drumgoole and Au’Diese Toney already on the roster. So while a commitment would have been a morale booster, it would not have addressed an area of need for the team.
Johnson averaged 22.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game at Moon in the 2018-19 season. However, he was ruled ineligible to play his senior season at the Pittsburgh-area high school, prompting a cross-country move to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, Arizona.
The former Moon standout has ties to Pitt through his brother, Cameron Johnson, who played for the Panthers from 2014 to 2017 before transferring to North Carolina, and through his father, Gilbert Johnson, who played for the Panthers from 1988 to 1990. However, it seems that family history was not enough to lure him away from a blue blood program and onto a team in the midst of a rebuild.
In addition to Johnson, Pitt recently missed out on four-star point guard R.J. Davis and five-star small forward Earl Timberlake, both of whom counted Pitt among their finalists. However, Capel and his staff picked up a commitment from four-star power forward John Hugley in October and could be in the mix for Michigan State decommit Jalen Terry.