01STOCK_BASKETBALL

He’s baaaaaaack!

Less than one year after transferring to the IMG Academy in Florida, Jalen Johnson has returned to the hardwood for Glendale Nicolet High.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson, who was one of the most highly recruited in-state players ever before signing with Duke University, played his first game back with Nicolet last Friday.

He scored 14 points in a 54-43 win over Slinger.

Johnson didn’t play a game for IMG Academy. According to WIAA transfer rules, because he didn’t establish eligibility there, his eligibility remained with Nicolet.

Johnson returned to school at Nicolet over the winter break and was granted eligibility to return to the basketball court before Friday’s game.

Johnson led Nicolet to the Division 2 state title last year and was named the Associated Press player of the year. He then transferred to IMG for his senior season.

Janesville Craig boys basketball coach and athletic director Ben McCormick said he was surprised that Johnson was granted his eligibility immediately.

“I didn’t see any way he’d be eligible this season, but then again I don’t know the rules well enough, especially those in fine print,” McCormick said. “Obviously, the WIAA felt there was no reason not to waive the transfer rule.

“I would imagine the other coaches in that conference are not real happy about the decision, though.”

McCormick said the only case he could recall dealing with a transfer issue was when 2015 Craig graduate Harry Henschler left the Janesville Bluebirds co-op high school hockey program his senior year to go play with the Madison Capitals.

Henschler left the Capitals during the season and returned to the Bluebirds but was forced to sit out six games , which is the number he had played with the Capitals before returning.

“Harry was still a Craig student, so that’s different,” McCormick said. “But I have talked to people that saw Johnson playing in games on film. Maybe they were just scrimmages, though. I’m not sure.

“But as far as this setting a bad precedent, I don’t think it will. It sounds like the WIAA felt like he followed the proper guidelines to get immediate eligibility granted.”

Time will tell what impact the WIAA’s decision on Johnson’s eligibility will have, but if Nicolet somehow goes on and wins a second straight state title, I can guarantee there will be harsh criticism statewide because of the player involved.

Here’s a look at three area games on tap today and tomorrow:

Beloit Turner (13-3, 12-1) at East Troy (16-1, 13-0), boys, Rock Valley, 7:15 p.m., today—The conference title is likely on the line. An East Troy win, with only four conference games remaining, would all but wrap up an undisputed Rock Valley title. A Turner win creates a two-way tie at the top.

The Trojans have won nine straight since a nonconference loss in early January to Racine St. Catherine’s—the top-ranked team in Division 3.

Senior guard Jordan Majeed passed the 1,000-point mark last week and leads Turner in scoring at 14.5 points a game.

Senior forward Dai’Vontrelle Strong averages 11.9 a game.

Second-ranked East Troy has won eight straight since a nonconference loss to Susses Hamilton—the third-ranked team in Division 1.

East Troy hammered Turner 84-61 in the first meeting this season.

AJ Vukovich continues to lead the Rock Valley in scoring. The senior and two-time conference player of the year is averaging 28.6 points a game, which ranks fifth overall in the state.

“He’s going to get what he gets. You just hope to try and slow him down if you can,” Turner coach Ken Watkins said of Vukovich. “He probably competes as hard as any player I’ve ever seen.”

Eighth-ranked Turner must find a way to slow down East Troy’s high-powered offense, which is averaging 82.3 points a game.

“Our guys are excited about the opportunity,” Watkins said. “At the beginning of the season, you hope to be playing for the chance to win a conference title at the end, and we’ve put ourselves in position for that.

“Our defense has set the standard all season, and now our offense has really started clicking.”

Best guess--East Troy 77, Turner 63.

Badger (15-4, 8-3) at Waterford (11-7, 8-3), girls, Southern Lakes, 7 p.m., today—The winner retains at least a share of the conference lead, while the loser falls a game behind with only two to play.

The Wolverines are looking for the season sweep after a 50-47 win at Badger in the first meeting.

Waterford is 3-3 in its last six games.

Waterford senior Katie Rohner leads the Lakes in scoring at 18.1 points a game. She’s had six games of 20 points or more and has failed to reach double figures in scoring in only two games.

The Badgers are the hottest team in the Southern Lakes, winners of seven straight.

Macie Todd leads Badger in scoring and is third in conference. The junior is averaging 14.8 points a game.

Best guess: Badger 58, Waterford 51

Janesville Craig (14-5, 11-4) at Middleton (18-1, 14-1), girls, Big Eight, 7:15 p.m., Friday—Can the Cougars pull off the upset against the state’s second-ranked team?

Middleton won the first meeting this season 73-54.

The Cardinals have won 12 straight since a 16-point loss to third-ranked Madison Memorial back in December.

Sitori Tanin leads Middleton in scoring. The senior and Loyola University recruit is averaging 15.4 points a game.

Craig has played well on the road all season. The Cougars are 7-1 on the road, with the lone loss to Memorial.

“Our girls are looking forward to the challenge,” Craig coach Kerry Storbakken said. “We’re playing our best basketball of the season right now, and I think I’d rather play a team like Middleton than anybody else with the tournament right around the corner.”

Claudia Fieiras continues to pile up the points. The junior leads the Big Eight in scoring at 19.3 points a game and is coming off a 34-point game in a win over Madison East last Saturday.

“What happens Friday night could go a long way in determining our seeding for the tournament,” Storbakken said. “We could get as high as a four seed, and possibly a three seed, depending how we do against Middleton.

“They’re very talented. And they’d have to be one of the favorites now to come out of our sectional.”

Best guess: Middleton 70, Craig 53

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