- Dakari Johnson
- Hometown (Last School)
- Brooklyn, N.Y. (Montverde Academy)
- 2014-15, 2013-14
- September 22, 1995
Dakari Naeem Johnson was born September 22, 1995, in Brooklyn, New York to Makini Campbell. Dakari Johnson came from a family of basketball players. His mother played basketball at Long Island University; an uncle (Kojo Campbell) suited up for Stony Brook, while a cousin (Michael Murray) played at Coppin State. Johnson spent his middle school years in Lexington, Kentucky, where he attended Sayre and played on the high school's varsity team. He then attended St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he was teammates with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a freshman. After the 2010–11 school year, when coach Kevin Boyle left for Montverde Academy, Johnson followed his coach, where he had to sit out the 2011–12 season due to the transfer. Because of his excellent grades, Johnson decided to reclassify, thus making the 2012–13 season his final and senior season at the high school level. He ended up averaging 17.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game as a senior. Johnson led his high school squad to a national championship at the National High School Invitational where he claimed MVP honors after logging 18 points and eight rebounds. In his senior year, he garnered USA Today All-American Second-Team for his success. He subsequently earned selection to the 2013 McDonald's All-American Boys Game and Jordan Brand Classic. Considered a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, Johnson was ranked as the No. 2 center in the nation in 2013.
On January 5, 2013, Dakari Johnson verbally committed to play at Kentucky. He chose Kentucky over Syracuse, Georgetown, Kansas, North Carolina, and Ohio State. “Lexington, Kentucky for me, it's like going back home,” he said. “Someplace that just feels right for me.” Johnson joined what may be one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball: James Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, and Derek Willis.
As a freshman at Kentucky in 2013–14, Johnson averaged 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 39 games. He started 18 games including every game in the postseason. On January 28, 2014, he led Kentucky at LSU, scoring a career-high 15 points, shooting 7-of-8 from the field, and pulling down six rebounds. On March 13, 2014, Johnson grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and scored nine points against LSU in the SEC Tournament. On March 28, 2014, he matched a career-high in scoring with 15 points, while adding six rebounds in a season-high 31 minutes to help UK knock off Louisville. On April 15, 2014, he tallied 10 points and seven rebounds, including five offensive, to help UK past Wisconsin in the Final Four.
As a sophomore the following season, he appeared in 39 games and averaged slightly higher numbers with 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 16.4 minutes per game while connecting on 50.6 percent of his shots from the field. He registered career bests in points per game, rebounds per game, free-throw percentage, blocks, steals, and assists during his sophomore campaign. Johnson opened the season with his first career double-double effort in a win over Grand Canyon with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. On February 14, 2015, he earned his second career double-double with 10 points, two blocked shots, and a career-high 13 rebounds in a win over South Carolina at home. Kentucky finished 38-1 in 2014-2015, with their only loss coming in the NCAA Final Four against Wisconsin.
On April 9, 2015, Johnson declared for the NBA draft, forgoing his final two years of college eligibility. He was joined alongside fellow Kentucky teammates Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker.