08.15.19 | News
The “back” in “back to school” doesn’t apply to many top-flight high school basketball players. They’re off to new schools instead, taking advantage of a transfer system that essentially allows free movement throughout the country.
The result for teams often resembles what happens in the pros. One school’s homegrown talent becomes another’s instant upgrade. And in some cases, it happens twice. Jalen Johnson, the No. 4 prospect in ESPN’s 2020 recruiting rankings, just transferred to 2018 Culligan City of Palms Classic participant IMG Academy (Bradenton), one year after making an in-state move from Sun Prairie (Wisconsin) to Nicolet.
Johnson, who’ll move on to Duke next year, instantly becomes the linchpin of an absurdly talented team that includes Culligan City of Palms Classic veterans Jaden Springer and Noah Farrakhan along with fellow A-list transfers Mark Williams and Matt Murrell. All of them are in ESPN’s top 100 recruits for 2020.
IMG isn’t the only squad using transfers to bolster an already potent lineup. Montverde Academy secured 2017 Culligan City of Palms Classic MVP Scottie Barnes from University School (Fort Lauderdale), giving Montverde two players in ESPN’s top 10. The other is Cade Cunningham, currently the nation’s No. 2 recruit. Montverde teammate Moses Moody is No. 24, and Day’Ron Sharpe, who just transferred in from South Central (Winterville, North Carolina), gives Montverde an imposing roster.
Nos. 6 and 7 on ESPN’s 2020 list both transferred to Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California), meaning Ziaire Williams and B.J. Boston will team with Bronny James (LeBron’s son) and Zaire Wade (Dwyane’s son). Michael Foster, who is No. 6 in the ESPN 2021 rankings, is off to Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix), and so is 2021 No. 18 Keon Edwards.
It isn’t just change that’s a constant in elite high school basketball — it’s change of address. But wherever first-class players go, they still want to end up in Fort Myers to take part in the No. 1 high school basketball tournament in the country.