After two years of college basketball offers, recruiting visits and plenty of soul-searching, Bradford’s Dallion Johnson knew, as he stepped onto the Penn State campus, that he had found his next home.
“The moment I got there I felt this special vibe,” said Johnson. “I loved the coaches and the players, and the whole campus was just unbelievable. It felt like the place where I were meant to be.”
Johnson, the reigning Eagle-Tribune boys basketball MVP and Phillips Academy senior-to-be, made his college plans official this week, committing to play basketball at Penn State on a full scholarship.
“Playing major Division 1 college basketball has been my dream since I was a little kid,” said Johnson. “I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and play at the highest level I could, and the Big 10 is an amazing conference. This is a dream-come-true for me, and it feels so amazing to make my decision.”
The commitment ends a recruiting process that began when Johnson received his first Division 1 college offer, from Rutgers, in the summer of 2017.
Last winter as a junior, Johnson averaged 20.2 points per game and hit 85 3-pointers in 24 game for Phillips, both area-highs. He became the first Big Blue player to earn Eagle-Tribune boys hoops MVP since it became an annual award in 1990.
A 6-foot-2 point guard/shooting guard, Johnson is rated the No. 1 college basketball prospect in Massachusetts for the class of 2020 by recruiting website 247sports.com — which ranked him a three-star recruit — and the No. 7 prospect in New England by Newenglandrecruitingreport.com.
“I’m so excited for him,” said Phillips head coach Terrell Ivory, whose brother Titus Ivory is a former Penn State great. “Dallion has worked hard for this and he has always dreamed of playing basketball at the highest level possible.
“He deserves this, but this is just the beginning. He is a great player now, but he will continue to improve because he works so hard. I’m excited to watch his journey.”
In three seasons at Phillips, Johnson has tallied 1,074 career points, already third most in school history.
During the recruiting process Johnson received offers from 12 Division 1 college programs according to 247sports.com. He narrowed his favorites to Penn State, Davidson, Boston University, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and UMass Amherst.
“At times (recruiting) was very overwhelming,” he said. “It got to the point where I didn’t even want to think about it. I just wanted to focus on basketball and school. Once school ended, I got to really think about where I really wanted to go.”
Johnson made his first visit to Penn State a month ago, and fell in love.
“I loved it there right away,” he said. “The players, the coaching staff, the people. I could see myself there for four years. My coach (Ivory) reminded me that teams only have so many spots, and if other kids committed my spot could be taken. I didn’t want that to happen.”
Johnson officially committed to Penn State on Monday.
“I felt relieved,” he said. “I’m so grateful to all the great programs that showed interest in me. It feels so amazing to be headed to Penn State.”
With his college decision made, Johnson can now fully turn his focus to the court.
On Wednesday, he and his Rivals Basketball Club left for Los Angeles to compete in the Adidas Gauntlet Finale. Last week, the Rivals advanced to the Elite 8 at the Adidas Summer Championships in Birmingham, Ala.
“I don’t have to worry about college now,” he said. “That’s a relief. I can just focus on playing ball. I want to become the best player I can be and lead Phillips to a championship.”
A recruiting pipeline from the Merrimack Valley to Happy Valley, Penn. may be forming.
New Penn State basketball commit Dallion Johnson of Bradford grew up roughly a five minute drive from the neighboring town of Merrimac, the home of current Penn State football budding star Pat Freiermuth.
Freiermuth delivered a breakout freshman season last fall, catching 26 passes for 368 yards and eight touchdowns for the Nittany Lions.
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.