2024 Future Watch: Evaluating A.J. Johnson and Garwey Dual in a High School Basketball Game

July 5th, 2023

By Alan Lu

Several months ago, a highly touted prospect for the 2024 draft, AJ Johnson, de-committed from Texas and signed with the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL in Australia.  He had not played in any of the high school All-Star games, so to me, he was a mystery man that could be in next year’s draft.

I wondered what skills set him apart from others and how he was able to join one of the toughest professional leagues in the world, so I set out to find full game footage of Johnson playing in a basketball game.  I was able to watch him play in a January 7th game for Southern California Academy against Balboa High, with thanks to YouTube via TVXsportsvideo.  I also noticed that he was teammates with Garwey Dual, another athletic skilled guard that is a highly touted prospect for next year, and Dual had played at the 2023 Nike Hoop Summit, albeit sparingly.

It was a very slow paced, low scoring affair between the two teams, but Garwey Dual dominated in this match, as he showed off an impressive array of skills and athleticism to help Southern California Academy to get the win, and Johnson was able to make a couple of strong plays to help his team as well.  Here are my thoughts on how Dual and Johnson fared, as well as an early assessment of their skills and how they currently stack up as NBA draft prospects.

A.J. Johnson is a very athletic, 6-5 guard that will play in Australia’s NBL for the Illawarra Hawks, and he is considered to be a first round prospect for the 2024 draft.
(Photo: 247Sports, via Bleacher Report)

A.J. Johnson is a very athletic, energetic combo guard that thrives at making plays in the open court, and he’ll make hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.  He didn’t shoot the ball well or take care of the basketball very well in this game, and he seemed to make his fair share of mistakes on the defensive end.  Still, he was able to make a couple of eye-popping plays in the open court, and he is a high-flyer that may have considerable upside as a prospect for the NBA.

Johnson did a terrific job of scoring on fast breaks.  He is a very athletic guard that can finish plays well above the rim, and he was able to throw down a couple of eye-popping dunks in this game.  He also is an aggressive scorer that can quickly get to the rim to score on quick drives in transition.

On the downside, he really struggled to operate in the half court in this game.  He didn’t shoot the ball very well from beyond the arc.  Johnson did make an open, deep three-pointer once, but he often would miss threes both off the catch or dribble, and he didn’t have a great feel for his jump shot against Balboa.  Johnson was able to draw free throws on an aggressive, half-court drive.  However, he would sometimes be prone to rushing, which would lead to misses, and he also had a couple of his shots blocked.

He showcased perhaps adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Johnson is a fairly quick guard that handles the ball well, and he is quite shifty with the ball in his hands. When he’s focused in looking to get his teammates involved, he was able to show some solid court vision on offense at times. He showed that he can consistently make drive and kick passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he was able to stop on a dime and cause a defender to fall before passing the ball once.  However, he tended to over-dribble and try to do too much on offense, and he committed too many ball-handling turnovers as a result.  He would sometimes over-dribble and get balls poked away and lose it to turn it over.  He also would sometimes play too fast and carelessly that would lead to turnovers other times, as he was called for traveling, and he also tried to use a fancy dribble move but ended up losing the ball to an opponent.

Johnson didn’t seem to get many rebounds, but he was able to leap up to get a couple of boards, and he would look to quickly bring the ball up afterwards.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  Johnson is an athletic guard that will play passing lanes, and he was able to intercept a couple of passes to get steals. He also managed to jump on a loose ball that was deflected to him to get another.  He also showed a willingness to contest shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint, and when engaged, he was able to force plenty of misses.  On the downside, he would sometimes be prone to having lapses defensively.  Johnson would be caught ball watching and would not always stay attached to his man, and he would be late on rotations or to close out, which would lead him to give up three-point baskets.  Other times, he would get beat off the dribble by opponents that shouldn’t be able to get past him.  

Overall, while Johnson was able to make some really good plays at times, he didn’t have a great game in his team’s January 7th win over Balboa, and I felt a bit underwhelmed in watching him play against them.  I was hoping to see a higher skill level out of him, but left relatively disappointed in what I saw.  For the positives, he is a very athletic guard that can excel as a shot creator and finisher in the open court, and he showed the potential to be a solid all-around prospect for the NBA.

On the other hand, Johnson didn’t shoot the ball very well, showed significant ball-stopper tendencies as a ball handler in the half court, and he will need to take better care of the ball and be a more focused defender in games.  That Johnson was able to join an NBL team is very impressive in itself, but the NBL is a very tough league, and he will need to significantly improve and sharpen his skill set to be play well overseas.  He is a talented prospect that will still need to polish up his game, and he could end up going anywhere from the mid first to the second round for the 2024 draft.

Providence-bound guard, Garwey Dual (on the right, with the ball in his hands) is a very talented prospect that could end up being a first round pick in the 2024 draft.
(Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar, via The Providence Journal)

Garwey Dual had a tremendous showing to help lead his team to a double-digit win over Balboa.  He is an athletic, skilled guard that did everything well on the court, and his versatility was on display throughout this game.

He did a great job of attacking the hoop to score the basketball.  Dual thrived at scoring on aggressive drives and on fast breaks.  He showed that he can take the ball to the rim to score in traffic, and he also threw down a thunderous dunk another time.  He has a solid, smooth first step, and he showed a knack for drawing fouls to get to the free throw line.  

He didn’t take as many shots as expected, as he operated as more of a facilitator and ball handler, but Dual also did a good job of knocking down outside shots when he hoisted them up.  He wasn’t able to use a swift, behind-the-back dribble move and pull up to make a long two.  Dual also moved off the ball to make a quick open corner three off the catch.  Dual didn’t shoot the ball very often, but he was very effective as a shooter and scorer on offense.

Also, Dual showcased satisfactory playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that excels at making passes off the dribble, and he has solid court vision that enables him to consistently find the open man, especially on fast breaks.  He also operates well as a tall ball handler, and he can seamlessly create shots for himself and others.  On the downside, he would sometimes be inaccurate with his passes, and he threw one inaccurate lob pass that ended up being deflected and intercepted once.

Plus, he also was able to get his fair share of boards on both ends of the floor, and he would tend to push the pace off of defensive rebounds.  In addition, Dual played outstanding defense in this game.  He is a very active, rangy and pesky defender that covers a lot of ground.  He would poke and swipe balls away to get steals for his team.  He also would close out hard on shooters and managed to block a couple of three-point shots, and he also swatted a shot off of a cut due to possessing good length, athleticism, and timing.  He would consistently stay in front of his man and contest shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint, and he did a great job of forcing misses throughout the contest.

Overall, Garwey Dual put forth a dominant, strong all-around performance to help his team get a win over Balboa.  He is an athletic, skilled combo guard that looked to be head and shoulders, the best player in this game.  He’s a versatile playmaker that was engaged on both ends of the floor, and he also played shutdown defense.  He’ll need to trust his outside shot more, but he is a very talented prospect that could end up being a lottery pick in the 2024 draft.

Southern California Academy’s 6-9 forward and Georgetown commit, Drew Fielder also played fairly well in his team’s win over Balboa.  Fielder is a fairly athletic, skilled forward that can shoot and score the basketball.  He was able to make an open three, and he excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Fielder also managed to score on a powerful dunk once.  He would sometimes rush his shots and miss easy shots around the basket, and he also would take tough shots off the dribble that would lead to misses.  Still, Fielder is a versatile scorer that showed the ability to make shots inside and out, which could enable him to be a valuable role player at higher levels.

Fielder was able to set a solid screen and pass to a teammate on a dribble handoff to get an assist.  However, he would sometimes play too carelessly, which would lead him to commit turnovers.  Fielder didn’t look to be a dynamic ball handler or playmaker, but he’s an unselfish player that can set screens, handle the ball in short spaces, and move the ball on offense.

Although he didn’t seem to get many rebounds in this game, Fielder was able to crash the offensive glass to get a pair of offensive rebounds.  On one play though, he was called for a foul when going for a defensive rebound, due to holding an opponent that time.

Also, Fielder played solid defense in this game.  He is a high-motor player that will get his hands on passes to get steals, and he also would dive on the ground to help his team get loose balls.  He was active in contesting shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint, and his length and positioning would enable him to force a wealth of misses.  On the downside, he would sometimes give up too much space to shooters when defending out on the perimeter, which would lead him to give up three-point baskets at times.

Overall, Drew Fielder played fairly well, and he could end up making an impact in college basketball sometime down the road, maybe years from now.  He is a skilled forward that can shoot, and he also is a high-motor player that looks to be well-schooled defensively.  He didn’t look to be a shot creator or rebounder, but his ability to shoot and defend could enable him to excel as a 3 and D role player at higher levels.

Southern California Academy’s 6-5 guard, Jahseem Felton also quietly played fairly well in this game.  He didn’t take many shots on offense, but he shot the ball well from the outside, and did a good job of rebounding the basketball.

Felton showed a solid ability to knock down spot-up threes off the catch, and he was able to run quickly off the ball on on a give and go to make a three-pointer once..  He also drove aggressively to the hoop to draw free throws.  He did miss on a rushed layup on a quick drive in transition, but generally Felton was effective as a floor spacer on offense.

He also showcased adequate playmaking skills.  Felton was able to make a quick drive and kick pass to notch an assist.  On one play though, he over-dribbled into traffic and had a ball stolen away from him to commit a turnover.

Also, Felton did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was able to collect plenty of defensive boards.  He also defended well, and he was able to jump a pass to get a steal once.  Overall, Felton is an athletic guard that can shoot the basketball, and he was able to make plays on both ends of the floor.  He’ll need to be more assertive on offense, but he is a sharpshooter that could be a prospect to watch in the future.

Balboa’s 6-2 guard and Western Nebraska Community College commit, Loren Daniel had a solid showing in his team’s loss in the game.  He is a sharpshooter that did a great job of knocking down threes to provide floor spacing on offense.  He did a great job of knocking down quick, spot-up threes off the catch, and he also ran off of a ball screen to make a quick three once.  He is a very good shooter that has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off.

He also played adequate defense.  He was able to hustle back to back-tap a ball away to a teammate to help his team get a steal.  However, there was one play where he rotated but missed on a steal attempt that led him to be out of position, and his team ended up giving a long two to an opponent that time.

Overall, Daniel excelled as a sharpshooter on offense, and his ability to make shots from downtown helped his team stay in it, especially in the first half.  It was surprising that he didn’t play more in the second half, but Daniel is an agile, skilled guard that can really shoot the basketball, and he could be a prospect to keep tabs on in the future.

Balboa’s Abraham Oyeadier is an athletic big man that did a terrific job of blocking shots, but he didn’t seem to be nearly as impactful in the other areas of the game.

On offense, he showed off a fairly basic repertoire when operating out of the post.  He was able to score on a drop step move out of the post, and he also drew free throws on a sweeping jump hook another time.  However, Oyeadier didn’t take many shots, and he was unable to make any of the mid-range jumpers he took on offense.  He also didn’t pass the ball very well, as he threw one that got intercepted, and he threw another that sailed out of bounds.

Oyeadier was able to leap up to get his fair share of boards on both ends of the floor, but sometimes he would play too aggressively, which would lead him to commit fouls as a result.  On defense, Oyeadier looks to be a solid interior defender, and his shot blocking prowess really made it difficult for opponents to get easy shots in the lane.

Overall, Oyeadier had his ups and downs, but his size, athleticism, and defensive skills may make him an intriguing prospect for college basketball.  His defense is ahead of his offense right now, and he’ll really need to improve his skill level offensively, but his ability to defend in the paint could enable him to be an NCAA division 1 player in the future.

In summary, those are my thoughts on how Dual and Johnson fared in this game, and it’s an early assessment of their skills, but my assessments probably will change and evolve as the 2023-24 season progresses.  Thanks for reading.

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