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Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein won’t keep Dakari Johnson from Kentucky

Jan 4, 2013, 4:36 PM EDT

Noel Stein UK AP

Montverde Academy (Fla.) 2013 center, Dakari Johnson is one of the best remaining seniors out there entering the New Year. The nation’s top center is following in the footsteps of last year’s highly-touted big man, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.

Towards the end of December, days before Christmas, Johnson – like Noel had done the previous year – had cut his list to three schools: Kentucky, Syracuse, and Georgetown. The 6-foot-10 Johnson could follow Noel to Lexington, picking the Wildcats over the Orange and Hoyas.

The question of whether Noel and Cauley-Stein will both be in Big Blue Nation is up for debate, with both centers likely to be one-and-done candidates. However, if they do return for a sophomore season, Johnson wouldn’t mind suiting up alongside.

“I talked to Coach Cal and it wouldn’t matter to me, even if they [Noel and Cauley-Stein] stayed,”  Johnson told Seve Cousins of ZagsBlog.com earlier this week. “They would push me harder in practice and I would just be better developed going against those guys every day.”

However, Johnson isn’t a sure thing for Kentucky just yet. The Montverde big man is intrigued with Georgetown and it’s storied tradition of talented centers.

“Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, all of them their just so great, so developed and very skilled, “Johnson told Cousins.

Syracuse will likely hit the scholarship limit, even if sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams declares for the NBA Draft following the season. The Orange are still in contention for the nation’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (W.Va.) and power forward, Jermaine Lawrence of Pope John XXIII High (N.Y.)

If Johnson pledges to John Calipari and Kentucky, he’ll join a star-studded freshman class, featuring the Harrison twins – Aaron and Andrew – along with James Young. Kentucky is also a possible destination for Wiggins, as well as top-10 power forwards, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.

Noel is a consensus top-5 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, while some mock drafts have Cauley-Stein as a first rounder.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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