Johnson - living his dream

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This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing KJ Johnson, 2019 MCHS graduate and basketball stand-out, who will start his sophomore year at Lipscomb University this fall. Johnson, who attends Lipscomb on a basketball scholarship, recently completed his freshman year online, due to COVID-19. He planned to stay on campus most of the summer and help oversee various kids’ basketball camps, but due to the pandemic, his plans changed and he has been back in his hometown since March.

During his days in Lewisburg, he is staying in shape by running, weight training, and is on a supervised meal plan. “I am working on getting stronger,” Johnson admitted. “People have underestimated my appearance in the past. I proved them wrong through by athleticism.”

In 2018 and 2019, Johnson was chosen Class 2A TSSAA Mr. Basketball. He is Marshall County High School’s all-time leading scorer with 2,720 points, averaging 34.8 points per game, with 114 three pointers.

Not only did he break the MCHS record of scoring the most points in four years, but also broke MCHS’s single-game record with 57 points. He also had three 50 point games and nine 40 point games.

The most exciting game that he remembers in high school was during his freshman year, the game against Maplewood. The Tigers were the underdog with a record of 16-14. Maplewood was a much better team with a record of 23-6. With only a few seconds remaining in the game, Curtis Keiler nailed a layup, advancing the Tigers to state tournament play. He said it was so exciting for his team to make it to the state playoffs and more exciting to beat a great team such as Maplewood. During this season, he learned how to be a stronger player by watching his teammates and listening to Coach Arnett Bodenhamer.

Johnson played with an EAB travel team which allowed him to expand his game. By being on this team, he went up against some the toughest competition in the country.

I asked Johnson what advice would he give to younger basketball enthusiasts who were interested in playing college ball. “Don’t listen to critics. Just because of your size, it doesn’t mean you can’t strive for what you love. Work hard, listen to your coaches; the sky’s the limit,” Johnson remarked. “I’m proof of that.”

Johnson said he was nervous when playing his first game as a Lipscomb Bison. There were more spectators than in high school and his opponents were bigger and faster than him; but the butterflies soon disappeared after making his first three pointer and he became more confident with each basket he scored. Johnson also fit in well with his teammates which was a great blessing. “It was a hard transition from high school play to Division I college play, but I knew I had to adjust and it became easier with each game. Being double-teamed in high school helped me tremendously. Lipscomb Coach Lennie Acuff, who is a great offensive coach and a genius in basketball knowledge, helped me with this adjustment.”

Johnson can play against the best as he finished his freshman season with the Bisons, averaging 11.2 points per game. He scored double digits in 9 of 10 games played and scored 25 points against Xavier University. This shows what a great athlete Johnson is. Twenty-five points and only a freshman proves he works hard.

Johnson has three years of eligibility remaining. “This next season we will be stronger and hopefully we will be in conference play again. I am looking forward to practicing with my team as well as hitting the courts in game play,” said Johnson after I asked him about his future in playing his favorite sport.

KJ Johnson - a great competitive athlete who has a winning attitude and dreams that will take him far.

Marshall County is proud of you KJ and we look forward to your future basketball seasons.

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