High school seniors across the country diligently fill out their college applications, say a prayer, and click the “submit” button, beginning months of anxious waiting. For Johnuel Fland, the process has been a little different.
The Archbishop Stepinac High School student, better known by his nickname, “Boogie,” is one of boys’ high school basketball’s hottest prospects. Just over 24 hours from now, on Friday afternoon, Boogie Fland won’t check his email to see where he’ll be matriculating. Instead, he’ll gather family members, coaches, teammates, faculty, classmates, and members of the Archbishop Stepinac community, not to mention members of the sports media, to announce his final choice from his three preferred suitors: the University of Alabama; Indiana University, and the University of Kentucky.
The six-foot-three-inch point guard narrowed his list of eight possible schools in September. Fland has visited the campuses and basketball programs of the three, and Alabama Coach Nate Oats, Indiana Coach and former New York Knicks player and coach Mike Woodson, and Kentucky Coach John Calipari all visited Fland at home, along with participating in Archbishop Stepinac’s recent St. Ignatius School 2023 New York Coaches Clinic.
Fland could have kept the last three schools in suspense, as the “early window” for signing athletic recruits doesn’t end until November 8. However, by announcing his decision just under three weeks from the end of the early window, Fland not only guarantees his spot with the program of his choice, but he is also demonstrating respect for the two coaches whose teams he won’t be joining and gives them time to focus on signing other players.
Also, once his decision now made, Fland can turn his attention fully to Stepinac’s upcoming basketball season, which tips off in early December, not to mention the academic requirements of his final year of high school. Stepinac Basketball is set to play nine non-conference games and 14 conference games — numbers that do not include city playoff tournaments.
For the current state of the teams Fland is considering, Kentucky ranked 16th and Alabama 24th, with Indiana failing to make the top 25 in this year’s Associated Press pre-season poll. The NCAA men’s basketball season begins on November 6.
None of the three teams fared particularly well in the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Only Alabama made it to the Sweet Sixteen; the other two both went out in the second round.
Indiana is a five-time national champion but hasn’t raised the trophy since 1987. Kentucky has won the national championship eight times, most recently with Calipari in 2012. Alabama’s men’s basketball team has never won it all.
Despite Alabama’s recent success, it appears to be the dark horse in this three-school race. Indiana’s Woodson and his coaching staff seem to have a personal edge and recently landed another five-star prospect, six-foot-seven-inch forward Liam McNeeley. McNeeley expressed hope that Fland will join him in Bloomington in the fall of 2024.
Still, Calipari’s early identification of Fland as a primary recruiting target, his reputation and success at the college level, and Kentucky’s overall strength of program would make Lexington a tough offer to turn down.
For now, Boogie Fland plays in Stepinac’s distinctive black and red. But very shortly, he’ll likely be appearing in Indiana crimson and cream, or Kentucky blue and white.
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