National champion has a nice ring to it.

St. Michael-Albertville senior Tessa Johnson, Minnesota's top-ranked girls' basketball recruit in the Class of 2023, announced Wednesday that she will attend South Carolina.

"I always felt like South Carolina was the place for me," Johnson said.

The defending national champion Gamecocks won their latest crown in Minneapolis last April. South Carolina also won a national title in 2017 under coach Dawn Staley, and is ranked No. 1 in the preseason, unanimously, this year. Johnson was sold on the program after watching the Gamecocks' 72-59 semifinal victory over Louisville at the Target Center.

"My dad and I looked at each other during the game and thought I would fit in well with them," Johnson said. "They were fast and aggressive."

Her official visit to the school secured her decision.

"I trust Dawn with my future, and I connected with all the coaches and players," Johnson said. "When I was watching practice Aliyah Boston [Gamecocks senior forward and the national player of the year last season] came over and sat down next to me. She was explaining everything to me like I was a freshman on the team."

Johnson also had the Gophers and Baylor among her three finalists. She took official visits to both of those schools, too.

"The hardest thing to do was saying no to the other schools. I love both Baylor and Minnesota," Johnson said. "A lot of people in the community wanted me to go to Minnesota. It was a tough call."

Johnson and Knights coach Kent Hamre were impressed with the Gophers during the recruiting process.

"Shout-out to the Gopher staff here in Minnesota," Hamre said. "I know Tessa has a great relationship with all of them."

ESPN's HoopGurlz ranks Johnson 25th in the nation's Class of 2023, 12 spots ahead of Hopkins guard Nunu Agara. Minnesota's top junior recruit, Benilde-St. Margaret's guard Olivia Olson, committed to Michigan a month ago. She is ranked No. 7 nationally in the Class of 2024.

“The hardest thing to do was saying no to the other schools. I love both Baylor and Minnesota. A lot of people in the community wanted me to go to Minnesota. It was a tough call.”
Tessa Johnson

A 5-10 guard, Johnson averaged 23.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game as a junior.

"Tessa truly is a one-of-a-kind player," Hamre said. "She is a very selfless player, who always puts the success of her team above herself. She is the first to congratulate someone else for their accomplishments and is her teammates' biggest cheerleader."

Johnson missed her sophomore season after breaking the femur in her left leg.

"When she was sidelined with her injury her sophomore year, it was like having another coach on the bench and in practice," Hamre said. "Her knowledge of the game is admirable. During that time, she was driven to become a better player and was always working on her game, both physically and mentally."

Johnson acknowledged this summer was the best she has felt since suffering the injury but said she is still not fully recovered.

"I thought I had played at my highest level after the AAU season," Johnson said. "There is still some doubt in the back of my mind. I'm not at 100 percent yet because my hip strength is not fully back."

Hamre said choosing a school, and a coaching staff, was a difficult decision for his standout.

"We all know Tessa is a great basketball player, but she is genuinely one of the most kind and caring people you will ever meet," Hamre said. "I think this is one of the reasons, when making her college decision, that it was so hard. She naturally builds relationships with others, and that was no different with the people she met throughout the recruiting process.

"She didn't want to say no to anyone. She liked and respected all the coaches who recruited her."