Isaac Johnson wants to come home.
After a season at Oregon, the former American Fork standout — at one time a four-star prospect and Top 100 recruit — entered the transfer portal. He’s since turned his focus to the three major schools in the Beehive State: BYU, Utah and Utah State.
Johnson said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune that he has already visited two of those schools over the weekend — BYU and Utah State. In the Cougars, he would potentially play alongside his older brother, Spencer Johnson. In the Aggies, he’d join a coaching staff and group of players he said impressed him a great deal.
Johnson is working on scheduling a visit to Utah in the coming weeks and said his decision will most likely be made by the end of April.
Johnson, who was born in Nyssa, Ore., said he did not “fit” in Eugene, both from a lifestyle and basketball standpoint. It was the combination of those two factors that told him he had to move on.
“I would say if the social life and the rest of my non-basketball experiences had been great, I would probably still be in Eugene,” Johnson said. “And if the social life was how it is, but the basketball had been better for me, I would probably still be in Eugene. ...
“Mentally, I could be in a lot better situations for myself and for my career if I were to go back to Utah.”
Johnson described Oregon’s coaching staff as “wonderful” in navigating his faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even scheduling practices so he could attend at least one of the two hours of his church services each week.
“But the type of lifestyle that most students and athletes choose to live did not really fall in line with my core values, let’s just say,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he wants to be in a place where he, for the most part, gets along with all his teammates, and where everyone is “willing to work through the hard days to achieve the greater purpose for the team, not just for ourselves individually.”
Johnson said playing with his brother Spencer would be “super fun” because he’s the type of player who makes the game easier. BYU was among his final four choices back in 2018.
Johnson likes USU coach Ryan Odom’s track record of upsetting the No. 1 seeded Virginia in the NCAA Tournament in 2018. He also likes the development of center Brandon Horvath, who, similarly to Johnson, is a big man who can dribble and shoot — something the former American Fork star did not get much opportunity to do at Oregon.
“They recognize that that has been and will be part of my game and that we can utilize my skill set to benefit the team all around,” Johnson said.
Johnson is looking forward to going back to Utah, the place where he feels most comfortable and shaped him as a young man. From what he’s seen so far, he feels like he’d be able to “fit will with any one of the three” programs.
“I want to go to a place where I loved and needed, and not just a place where I am wanted and liked,” Johnson said. “So that’s, I think, what’s going to be the biggest thing for me going forward.”
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