Dakari Johnson to stay in school, return for sophomore season

04/23/2014 04:00 PM

The good news keeps coming for UK fans today.

Despite a strong showing down the stretch in the NCAA Tournament, Dakari Johnson has decided to return to UK for a second season. The rising sophomore made the announcement this afternoon through a press release.

Dakari’s statement reads:

“This year has been for me a year of transition, growth and so much fun! I’ve learned a lot about myself personally through adversity and triumph which I know made me a stronger individual. I would like to thank my brothers (teammates) for pulling together and stepping up and taking the road that many don’t travel. What memories! I would like to thank Coach Cal and the staff for trusting and providing me the opportunity to grow and build on my skills. I’d like to wish Julius Randle and James Young all the best and personally let them know that they have a group of brothers who will always support them. With that being said, I’m excited about having the option to either enter the 2014 NBA Draft or return to the University of Kentucky. After looking at the information provided to me by Coach Cal and the NBA committee, my family and I made the decision for me to return to UK for my sophomore year. Returning to school allows me to build on my leadership skills, improve my individual basketball strength and conditioning skills, and have another opportunity to accomplish one of my individual goals: winning an NCAA national championship in college. In addition, it will give me the opportunity to continue my studies because the ball will stop bouncing one day (shout out to Mike Stone). Big Blue Nation, I can’t thank you enough for your support, and I look forward to representing UK next year.”

Dakari’s mother, Makini Campbell, added:

“I just wanted to take some time to reflect, share, and thank the Big Blue Nation and the coaching staff for a great year of basketball through the ups and downs. Hands down we had a blast! I am so proud of Dakari and the University of Kentucky basketball program on their achievements this year. I had the opportunity to see my son grow as an individual and become the leader that I knew him to be. I appreciate the space, patience and respect shown to my family during this important time. What a blessing to have an opportunity to choose. When making a decision (we have made many) we try to look at the whole picture (advantages and disadvantages). I must truly admit when going through the process we saw both sides of the coin as a win-win. I must say that in making his decision, Dakari wasn’t worried about any other player coming back/or in. I think what he learned this year — regardless of a loaded talented team – is that each player brings something unique to the group that attributed to the March run. I’ve always been aware of his goal to win a national championship in high school, college, and the NBA. For him to confidently state what he did after his national high school championship game and make it to the finals in his freshman year of college was prosperous within itself. All of this while successfully working on his degree and enjoying college life whenever he could. I respect each of the young men having to make this decision. Congrats to Julius Randle and James Young for making their dream reality; I wish them all the best. I’m excited about the upcoming season and what lies ahead for this group.”

Johnson arrived in Lexington as heralded, five-star recruit, but didn’t take over as the starting center until midway through the 2014 season. While playing only 14 minutes per game, the 7-footer scored 5.2 points and added 3.9 rebounds per game.

His numbers improved as the season progressed and his role blossomed in March and April. In the last four games of the NCAA Tournament, Johnson averaged 9.5 points and 5 rebounds an outing.

With the Brooklyn, NY native opting to stay with the Cats, UK’s already crowded front court may now be the best in the country heading into the 2015 season. Johnson is joined by fellow 7-footer Willie Cauley Stein, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Karl Anthony-Towns and Trey Lyles.

Ben Rainwater

Ben Rainwater joined cn|2 in March 2014 as producer of KSTV and cn|2 Sports. Ben grew up watching John Calipari roam the sidelines as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers, and later graduated from the University of Memphis in 2012 with a degree in broadcast journalism. Before joining cn|2, Ben worked for WBBJ-TV, WMC-TV 5, and MemphisRoar.com. While Memphis’ sports will always be in his heart, Ben is ready to make the transition to covering all sports across the Commonwealth. Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_cn2.

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