LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Four impressive high school products have each signed a national letter-of-intent to continue their basketball playing careers at the University of Louisville, ranking this Cardinal group among the nation’s top recruiting classes.
The list of highly-touted signees consists of Shaqquan Aaron, a 6-7, 175-pound guard from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, Wash.; Jaylen Johnson, a 6-9, 215-pound forward from Ypsilanti (Mich.) High School; Chinanu Onuaku, a 6-10, 230-pound forward/center from Lanham, Md. and Riverdale Baptist High School; and Quentin Snider, a 6-1, 170-pound guard from Ballard High School in Louisville. All four are ranked among the nation’s top 70 prospects.
“This is a tremendous class that is deep, talented and all have great potential to improve,” said UofL head men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino. “Not only is it a well-balanced group with outstanding basketball players, but they really fit our system. We look for offensive players who can be a triple-threat — shoot, pass and beat their man off the bounce — and this group can certainly do that.”
Aaron averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists as a junior last season in helping Rainier Beach to a 25-4 record and the Washington Class 3A state championship. He had nine points and three rebounds in the 62-59 overtime victory in the title game over Lakeside.
A first-team AP Class 3A all-state selection as a junior, Aaron is ranked No. 14 nationally by 247Sports.com, 27th by Rivals.com, 34th by Scout.com and is No. 33 in the ESPN 100. His season scoring high as a junior was 38 points.
“Shaqquan is extremely talented,” said Pitino. “He’s explosive, passes it well, scores, has great size for a wing player and is very tough. He really understands how to play the game. All he needs is to work on building up his body, and that won’t be a problem.”
Originally from Pomona, Ca., Aaron averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals as a freshman in helping Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. amass a 32-3 record and capture the 2011 California Division I CIF state championship. He transferred to Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., for his sophomore year, but did not play basketball there.
He was a member of the 2011 USA Basketball 3x3 Youth World Championship team which finished eighth in the inaugural FIBA international 36-team competition in Rimini, Italy. He also participated with the 2010 USA Developmental National Team and 2011-12 USA Developmental National Team.
Aaron is the third Seattle product to play for the Cardinals in recent years, joining Peyton Siva (2009-13), UofL’s starting point guard on the 2013 NCAA Championship team; and Terrence Williams (2005-09), who led UofL to two NCAA Elite Eight appearances and also played at Rainier Beach. Aaron’s brother Shaddean played basketball at Mercer from 2004-08, totaling 1,115 career points for the Bears. His father Carl played professional basketball in Australia.
Aaron had offers from UCLA, Syracuse, UNLV, Arizona and Washington before choosing to sign with the Cardinals.
Johnson averaged 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior last season in helping Ypsilanti to a 20-5 record and the school’s first regional championship since 1981. He averaged 19.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in three district games before Ypsilanti reached the state quarterfinals, where Johnson totaled 15 points and 12 rebounds.
A first-team all-county selection as a junior, Johnson is ranked No. 55 nationally by 247Sports.com, 56th by Rivals.com, 62nd by Scout.com and is No. 57 in the ESPN 100.
“Jaylen has great potential,” said Pitino. “He has size, length, puts it on the floor, and is terrific at the defensive end of the floor for a high school player. He really understands how to get the most out of his abilities.”
His mother Janetta Johnson played for Wisconsin and professionally in Portugal. Her 130 blocked shots in 1988-89 is the Badgers’ single-season record and she averaged a team-high 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds that season.
Johnson chose to sign with the Cardinals after narrowing his opportunities to Michigan State and Oregon.
Onuaku (name pronounced Chih-NAH-noo On-ooh-AH-koo) averaged 8.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots as a junior last season in helping Riverdale Baptist achieve a 26-10 record and the Capital Beltway League title. He scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Capital Christian in the league championship game.
Onuaku is ranked No. 64 nationally by 247Sports.com, 65th by Rivals.com, 69th by Scout.com and is No. 74 in the ESPN 100. He led his DC Assault AAU team to the Under Armour Summer Jam title as the event’s second-leading rebounder. Also on the AAU circuit, he played on the Adidas Nations championship team and was named to the Reebok Breakout Classic All-Star game.
“Chinanu is physically ready to play in college,” said Pitino. “He’s a good shot blocker, a very good rebounder, and has great length. He will certainly be a positive inside presence for us at both ends of the floor.”
His brother Arinze Onuaku played for Syracuse from 2005-10 and opened this season on the New Orleans Pelicans roster. He set the Syracuse single-season field goal percentage mark of 66.7 percent as a senior when he averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds as the Orange’s starting center.
Onuaku had narrowed his collegiate choices to Georgetown and Miami (Fla.) before signing with the Cardinals.
Snider averaged 19.3 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals as a junior last season in helping Ballard High School to a 32-5 record and the Kentucky state championship game, where the Bruins fell 65-64 to Madison Central.
A first-team all-state selection and the seventh region player of the year as a junior, Snider is ranked No. 31 nationally by Rivals.com, 32nd by Scout.com, 35th in the ESPN 100 and 51st by 247Sports.com. He connected on 40.2 percent of his three-point goals and 78.2 percent of his free throw attempts last season.
“Since sixth grade, we felt Quentin would be a Louisville Cardinal someday,” said Pitino. “We’re very happy that he will become the point guard of the future for the University of Louisville. He’s well-rounded, shoots it well, gets in the lane and has good size. He makes people better and knows how to run a team.”
As a sophomore, Snider earned first-team all-state honors while averaging 16.9 points and burying 45.3 percent of his three-pointers in helping Ballard produce a 24-9 record and reach the semifinals of the regional tournament before falling to eventual state champion Trinity. DeJuan Wheat (1993-97), the Cardinals’ No. 2 all-time scorer, and Jerry Eaves (1978-82), the starting point guard on UofL’s 1980 NCAA Championship team, were also graduates of Ballard High School.
Snider chose to attend Louisville after also considering Illinois, UCLA, Michigan State and Connecticut.