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St. Joe's MJ a star -- or should be

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- SHE'S THE MOUNTAIN State's most underrated sports star.

Which is strange.

Bizarre, in fact.

Because even though the junior seems down-to-earth and even-keeled, all about her screams Hollywood and TMZ.

She's committed to play hoops at Notre Dame.

She's the most skilled girls player this state has produced in years.

Her initials are M.J.

And her boyfriend has been Andrew Wiggins, perhaps the nation's No. 1 boys high school player.

Do we need any more glitter for 5-foot-8 St. Joseph Central star Mychal Johnson?

Johnson and Wiggins alone should be enough for supermarket tabloid headlines. (Mydrew?)

This week, Johnson and (appropriately enough) the Fighting Irish of St. Joe in Huntington are trying to successfully march through the Class A field. On Wednesday, Johnson had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in her team's easy 89-29 victory over Man.

Her play is certainly worth a trip to the Civic Center.

"She's probably the most skilled [girls] player that's been around in a while," said St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis. "She can go left-handed or right-handed. She can pass or dribble with both hands. And she has a great jumper.

"Where she's really improved, though, is with her 3-point shot. That, and having more of a scorer's mentality. She's always been a great facilitator. But her play is more complete now. Plus, she's a fierce competitor."

Johnson, a combo guard, is one of the nation's most highly regarded players. ESPN ranks her No. 27 overall nationally and No. 8 at point guard. She's made waves at many key showcases.

"Pretty much everybody offered her," Lewis said. "She gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame [this past] October. She went there on an unofficial visit, came back and told her parents she really liked it. Maryland, WVU and Kentucky were kind of in the mix. Connecticut talked to her the day before the visit trying to get her not to commit.

"There was Tennessee. Stanford tried to get her to visit."

Johnson, though, is firmly committed to the nation's No. 2, 28-1 college Fighting Irish. You could tell on Wednesday, as she sat in the stands during the state girls basketball tournament's first session. On her head was a green ski hat emblazoned with the initials N.D.

It's a hat she might have purchased on Monday night, when Notre Dame won a thrilling 96-87 triple-overtime Big East battle over No. 3 Connecticut in South Bend, Ind.

"I was there," Johnson beamed. "It was awesome. I wasn't nervous, but my mom was the whole game."

The guard seems as cool around the recruiting world as she is on the court.

"Once I went to Notre Dame - and I had other places to go - I told my parents there was no use going elsewhere and wasting time and money.

"You can't beat Notre Dame, whether for basketball or academics. They have the nation's No. 1 business school there."

Johnson said West Virginia and Kentucky were the two other schools she planned to visit.

WVU fans might be frustrated by the news. Mountaineer coach Mike Carey has built a Top 25-caliber program, but has missed on top-shelf state talent like Alexis Hornbuckle and Renee Montgomery. Johnson, however, said Carey and assistant George Porcha did nothing wrong.

"I think they're doing it right at WVU," Johnson said. "They're on the right track. They recruited me hard. It's just tough once you go somewhere and feel comfortable."

Johnson certainly would have been a Mountain State draw, whether at WVU or Marshall. She has the game. She has the storyline. (She's also been a cheerleader and gymnast.)

Why, she even has a cool Twitter account. It's @mycoool_12.

And the bio there describes Johnson perfectly - on and off the court.

"Act like a lady," it says, "think like a boss."

TMZ is missing out.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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