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Louisville and Texas “seem to be” leaders for 5-star guard AJ Johnson

It’s Kenny Payne vs. Chris Beard on the recruiting trail.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JUN 05 Pangos All-American Camp Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With D.J. Wagner to Kentucky seeming to be all but a foregone conclusion at this point, Louisville basketball fans have spent the last few weeks focused on the recruitment of another 5-star guard with an acronymic first name.

A.J. Johnson, the No. 9 player in the class of 2023 according to Rivals, turned more than a few heads earlier this week when he stated that Texas and LSU are the two schools currently recruiting him the hardest. Of course, those two schools also have the built-in advantage of being two of the four that have already hosted Johnson on an official visit. Louisville is not among that group, but that will change once the electrifying floor general is in town for Louisville Live a week from Friday.

So is there a school or two that have separated themselves from the pack in the recruitment for Johnsonl? According to Rob Cassidy of Rivals, this is shaping up to be a showdown between Kenny Payne and Chris Beard.

Where he’ll land: One of the most in-demand prospects in the 2023 class, Johnson is coming off a strong showing at USA Basketball junior national team mini-camp and continues to flash the upside of a lottery pick. His college future is a bit more uncertain than his talent level, however, as Texas and Louisville seem to be standing toe to toe at the top of the five-star’s list.

Johnson visited Texas in September and is set to tour Louisville on Oct. 21. LSU is lying in the weeds, but isn’t seen as much of a serious threat as things stand today. There’s not much to separate the Longhorns and Cardinals, so there might be some white-knuckle moments ahead for both coaching staffs.

If Louisville is going to land the type of loaded, top 5/10 2023 recruiting class that Cardinal fans were dreaming about when Payne was hired, Johnson is going to need to be the centerpiece.

Beard and Texas don’t lose many recruiting battles like this, so here’s hoping that Louisville Live is off the charts this year.