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By LARRY VAUGHT

CHICAGO — Here’s more with Kentucky commit Dakari Johnson from the McDonald’s All-American Game:

Question: What do you weigh now?
Johnson: “Around 255. Coach (John) Calipari sent me a treadmill workout to do every day. I am trying to get down to 240 and then hit the weight room hard this summer to build it all back up with muscle.”

Question: Is it fair to say that you like knocking people around and playing physical inside?
Johnson: “I am a physical guy. That is what I do best, so I have to be physical in the paint to score and rebound. Rebounding is my strength. I am unselfish and I have real good post moves. I think I am just a real good teammate.”

Question: Can you go outside and score at Kentucky?
Johnson: “I am working on that every day. At the next level I can’t just bully guys all the time. I have to step out and hit a few jump shots, so that is what I am working on every day.”

Question: Does this McDonald’s All-American Game give you a chance to show Kentucky fans what you can do?
Johnson: “A little bit. It is an all-star game, so I don’t know how many touches I will get. And also I am trying to get some rest because the next day we (Montverde) have a game in the national championships in (Washington) D.C. I don’t know what the plan for the game tomorrow wil be. I am also trying to win a national championship in high school before I get to college and hopefully in college I can win one and then the NBA.”

Question: How often do you talk with the Kentucky coaches?
Johnson: “I talk to them every single week. They keep me updated and also tell me what I need to work on. That is one thing I like. They don’t just tell me what I am good at. They tell me things that I need to work on.”

Question: Since Calipari said this was a humbling season for him, have you noticed a more humble UK coach?
Johnson: “It is pretty hard coming off a national championship to have that type of season, but it should be all good next year. I think we will be really good.”

Question: What has the overall experience in Chicago been like for you?
Johnson: “It is great just hanging out with all the guys I have been competing with over the years and getting to know them is really a great feeling.”

Question: What does Julius Randle do best?
Johnson: “He just does everything. He is 6-8, he can handle the ball, passes like a point guard, shoots it. He is just really versatile.’

Question: How good is Marcus Lee, the player maybe the most under the radar among UK’s six McDonald’s All-Americans?
Johnson: “He is really good. Of course, he is another athletic big man that helps me because he is a shot blocker and I am not really a shot blocker. I think he is real good. I think he is underrated. I think he will have to prove next year how good he can be.”

Question: Will a frontcourt of Randle, Johnson, Lee, Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer be one of the best in college basketball next year?
Johnson: “We have to prove ourselves, but it looks good on paper. But we have to prove ourselves first.”

Question: Did you want to tell Aaron Gordon he was wrong when he said during his commitment to Arizona here Tuesday that he was going to win a national title?
Johnson: “It is what it is. Everybody has their opinion, but I know we are going to work hard to win it next year. We all talk about it (winning a title), but we all also talk about how much hard work it will take to win a championship.”

Question: Do you have everything academically in order to where you will be at UK in June to start summer classes/workouts?
Johnson: “Yes and June 6 is when I am supposed leave to go to Kentucky to start summer school and workouts.”

Question: Are you excited just to get out on your own and be on campus?
Johnson: “I am looking forward to it. I am trying to finish high school now, but it will be fun. It will be a lot of pressure, but will be fun. I am used to mixing academics and athletics. My school now is a real tough school academically, so I am used to that part of it.”

Question: Since your mother is a guidance counselor at your school, how important are academics to her?
Johnson: “She has me on lockdown. I can’t get anything below a C.”

Question: Is it true that you are a talented ping pong player?
Johnson: “That is my sport right there. I am just long and can hit it easy. I beat Wayne Selden, who is going to Kansas, here because he was talking smack, so I had to beat him in ping pong.”

Question: So you will be the best ping pong player at Kentucky next year?
Johnson: “Of course. That is a given.”

4 Responses to Dakari Johnson on treadmill workout, scoring, Calipari, Randle, Lee, education and ping pong ability

  • Anonymous says:

    Brings back memories ………….. I remember playing ping-pong against Pool and McCowan ( at the SAE house ) until daybreak many times. Hope that’s not ruined their basketball careers – - however they were very accomplished at Pong !

  • Judi Cole says:

    Great interview, Larry. Seems we have some real personalities coming in to play next year – can’t wait!

  • LindaS says:

    I like this young man, great sense of humor, mother who knows what is right. a son who listens to his mother and he’s BIG! I hope we can enjoy the season next year like we did the year Wall and Cousins were freshmen. They were hilarious. Of course, 2012 can never be replicated with the wonderful personalities on that team, the smiles and the love all around. I think, though, this in coming team is going to combine a lot of the good attributes of those two teams into one. I love this young man’s smile, always see pictures of him and Randall smiling.

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