KJ captures back-to-back Mr. Basketball Awards

Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Back-to-back Class 2A Mr. Basketball Award winner KJ Johnson (center) is flanked by Blake Atwood (Johnson County) and Chandler Lawson (Wooddale) Tuesday night at the Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

KJ Johnson, Marshall County High School’s all-time scoring leader, culminated his stellar career Tuesday night at the Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU as he captured his second consecutive Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Class 2A Mr. Miss Basketball Award.

“It is definitely a blessing, I never thought I would win it two years in a row,” Johnson said. “I give all the glory to God and thank him for everything.”

Johnson finished his career with 2,720 points and averaged a state-high 34.8 points per game with 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this season.

Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the TSSAA addresses the crowd before the start of the 2018-2019 Mr. and Miss Basketball Award ceremony Tuesday night at the Murphy Center on the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro.

“This is such an outstanding honor for all 30 of the young men and women recognized this evening at the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards,” said Bernard Childress, Executive Director of the TSSAA. “They were here not only due to their athletic ability that they displayed on the court throughout the season, but just as much for their outstanding character and academic achievements.”

Johnson sports a 3.7 G.P.A. at Marshall County and was selected to the 2018-2019 District 12-AA All-Academic team.

The David Lipscomb University signee won back-to-back District 12-AA regular season MVP awards and was the Region 6-AA Tournament MVP last season and claimed a spot on the region tournament team this season.

“I’m excited about going to Lipscomb, I feel like I can go right in and make a big impact on the team and I just feel it is a great place for me,” Johnson said.

Johnson was up against some stiff competition this year for the award against finalists Blake Atwood from Johnson County and Wooddale’s Chandler Lawson.

“I was worried about Chandler Lawson, I really thought it was a close matchup,” Johnson said. “I know he is going to Oregon, so I’m just blessed to be able to be in this position to win it.”

A statewide committee of sportswriters selected the winners based on performance during the 2017-2019 regular season. Academics and character were also taken into consideration. High school head basketball coaches and members of the media nominated the finalists.

“I’ll tell you, he is a special individual and I’m definitely going to miss him,” a smiling Marshall County coach Lavon King said. “He is one of those kids that is like two or three guys with everything he brings to the table.”

“I wish him nothing but the best in the future as far as going to Lipscomb and I’m proud that I actually got to coach him for two years.”

KJ Johnson drains a 3-pointer in the Tigers’ 78-75 Region 6-AA Tournament opening round win over Lewis County at Lewisburg.

Johnson also broke 2011 Mr. Basketball Kedren Johnson’s single-game scoring record for Marshall County this season when he poured in 57 points versus Fayetteville. The sharpshooting lefty also had games of 54 and 53 points, plus shot a remarkable 80 percent from the free throw line this season.

All you had to say was “KJ” is playing tonight and seats became hard to find as the 6-foot-2 guard performed in front of packed gyms for much of the season.

Double and triple-teamed for much of the season, Johnson had the uncanny ability to get his deadly 3-point shot off with inches to spare and he kept defenders off-balance before performing his catlike moves on drives to the dish for a soaring lay-up or a left-handed dunk.

“My career was definitely special,” Johnson said. “I’m glad it ended like this and I can take something back to the city as a representation of everything I worked hard for, it’s all been such a blessing.”

In Johnson’s four years at Marshall County, the Tigers posted a 75-49 record with back-to-back District 12-AA titles in 2017 and 2018 and he was a freshman on the 2015 squad that was the last Tigers’ team to qualify for the state tournament.

The Tigers went 16-14 this season and were eliminated from postseason play after suffering a 66-48 loss to Murfreesboro Central Magnet School in the Region 6-AA Tournament semifinals.

“It is a tough pill to swallow, but I am proud of my team for everything we went through this season, we fought hard,” Johnson said.

This was the 35th year that the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards have been presented to Tennessee’s best high school basketball players. American General was the sponsor of the event since the inception of the awards in 1985 until 2001. The Memphis Grizzlies were sponsors of the awards from 2002-2004. From 2005-2015 the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards were presented at the conclusion of each respective championship game as part of the post-game trophy ceremony.

Marshall County’s KJ Johnson (back row, second from right) poses with the other nine recipients of the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards.

2019 Mr. and Miss Basketball Winners

Division II-A Miss Basketball

Casey Collier, Webb School of Knoxville

Division II-AA Miss Basketball

Dontavia Waggoner, Ensworth

Class A Miss Basketball

Chloe Moore-McNeil, Greenfield

Class AA Miss Basketball

Gracee Dishman, Cumberland County

Class AAA Miss Basketball

Madison Hayes, East Hamilton

Division II-A Mr. Basketball

Keon Johnson, The Webb School

Division II-AA Mr. Basketball

Kennedy Chandler, Briarcrest

Class A Mr. Basketball

Ja’darius Harris, Peabody

Class AA Mr. Basketball

Kadrion Johnson, Marshall County

Class AAA Mr. Basketball

James Wiseman, Memphis East