LINCOLN — This week’s departure of Nebraska basketball assistant Kenya Hunter to Connecticut has created some doubt about how committed high school guard Xavier Johnson is to the Huskers.
Hunter was the lead recruiter for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound player from Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington, Virginia. Johnson signed an NU letter of intent in November.
He went on to earn player of the year honors in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Two recent winners of that award are Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft (Philadelphia) after a year in college at Washington, and Melo Trimble, a three-year starter and two-time first-team All-Big Ten pick at Maryland who just finished his first pro season in the NBA G League.
On Thursday, Nebraska coach Tim Miles and assistant Michael Lewis visited Johnson, his family and O’Connell coach Joe Wootten, son of legendary DeMatha High coach Morgan Wootten.
The relationship the Johnsons built with Hunter has created cause for pause regarding NU.
“They are still in the ‘trying to figure it all out stage,’” Miles said Friday afternoon. “I was very open with them. If we’re not the right spot for them and they want a release, we’ll certainly accommodate.
“But we think this is a great situation for Xavier. We spent time with him and his dad. We talked to his high school coach. We’ll have to see what happens from there.”
Nebraska has not received a formal request for a scholarship release, Miles said.
Johnson was Nebraska’s top recruiting target for 2018 and is touted as an immediate contributor.
Wootten wasn’t available by phone Friday. But in a recent interview with The World-Herald, he said of Johnson:
“He’s definitely a kid I think could come in and play major minutes and make an impact. The thing that needs to be stressed is he’s a great competitor. We have had very few bad practices. That’s because of leaders and competitors like Xavier.”
Johnson, one of just two seniors for Bishop O’Connell (26-8) last season, was voted first-team All-Virginia and first-team All-Metro by the Washington Post.
He averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds. He scored 30 points or more four times and had four double-doubles. In a split of two games against No. 1 DeMatha, Johnson scored 27 and 21 points.
Nebraska has two open scholarships for the coming season. This weekend — the first after the spring signing period opened — often is filled with prospect trips to campus. But with the weather forecast and travel advisories, Miles postponed all visits.
As far as finding a new assistant to replace Hunter, Miles said he has talked with some candidates already.
“I’m vetting them,” he said. “I want to do my due diligence on everything, and am working with our administration accordingly. Our goal is to hire the best candidate who can help us and who fits. I really liked the fit with Kenya.”
Also, Miles said he is still waiting to hear from Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos for details of his contract extension.