Killer Instinct: Cameron Johnson

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By Jamari Jordan

On the same court in which his season ended less than two weeks ago, Clarke Central High School senior Cameron Johnson is scheduled to meet with interested college recruiters as he begins to map out his future.

With his high-profile success in high school football and basketball now behind him, the multi-sport standout must choose his path. Johnson averaged 21 points 8.7 rebounds with three steals per game this season, yet the programs with strong basketball traditions have not expressed serious interest. Regardless, Johnson looks forward to the next chapter of his life.

“The next chapter is going to play college basketball,” said Johnson. “I hope to have the same experience wherever I go that I had here at Clarke Central.”

***

Johnson’s experience has been a memorable one. He and fellow teammates, Leroy Legette and Austin Johnson, have played for coach Andre McIntyre for four seasons. Johnson credits a lot of his recent success to McIntyre’s coaching and guidance. At the same token, McIntyre credits the recent success of the program to Johnson’s work on and off the court.

“He’s like a son,” said McIntyre. “Just watching Cam go from this scrawny kid when he was in 9th grade to now has been special. Our bond has gotten stronger. It’s going to be tough to see him leave.”

Everyone around the program will miss the excitement and attitude Johnson brought, especially athletic director Jon Ward.

“Cam is a special player that we were lucky to have here at Clarke Central,” said Ward. “His energy and leadership on and off the court is something I haven’t seen a player show here in a long time.”

Through all the praises and awards that Johnson has received over his career, he remains humble.

“I haven’t always been the best athlete,” said Johnson. “Growing up, I was the guy who you didn’t want to pick on your team. I was tall and lanky, but not that effective growing up.”

In particular, there was a difficult time in Johnson’s life that simply walking down the street without a walker seemed far-fetched.

***

According to a 2011 report in the Athens-Banner Herald, Johnson suffered from a serious staph infection in his pinky toe when he was in the fifth grade. The infection aggressively spread to his ankles and eventually his left hip. The infection severely deteriorated his motion capabilities as Johnson shrunk to a mere 65 pounds.

After months of rigorous physical therapy, Johnson saw major improvements in his capabilities. He dedicated himself to his training with hopes of one day becoming the standout athlete that he is today. That motivation is something that is still very obvious to those closest to Johnson.

“Cam is just intrinsically motivated,” said McIntyre. “He has something within that raises his gamers the next level. He loves the game of basketball, but more importantly, he loves to compete.”

***

Johnson’s competitive streak was a far gone conclusion looking at his family tree. His mom, Carla Johnson, is the women’s basketball coach for Clarke Central. Johnson spent her college career at the University of Missouri as a standout basketball player. His father, Mario Johnson, played professional football in the NFL for three years for the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. Johnson says sports is the topic of conversation in the household.

“They always go at it about who was better,” said Johnson. “They always claim who had which record the longest in college. It’s pretty funny watching two adults act that way.”

One story in particular stood out for Johnson. One day, his parents made an extensive chart detailing who gave him what skill. The list featured speed, quickness, agility, and other attributes. Shockingly, according to Johnson, the list was quite accurate. While the showdowns are chaotic, his mom loves the atmosphere of the house.

“We love seeing our kids play and compete and doing something positive,” said his mother Carla Johnson. “It’s not always that wild in the household most days.”

Johnson and his family experienced another wild day, but this time it was outside the house. During a snowstorm in Athens in early February, Johnson challenged his parents to game of basketball feeling overconfident in his skills. Through his childhood, his mom and dad would beat him in all sport-based events. Now, at the peak of his athleticism and seeing his parents age, Johnson felt this was the most opportune time to strike.

He dared both of his parents to score on him giving them each five chances. Johnson’s father could not do it. Then, he challenged his mom, the college basketball standout. After blocking his mom’s first shot on her initial attempt, she responded. She faked out her son and made the shot over him. Johnson was in complete disbelief.

“It went in,” said Johnson. “She did not score on me.”

His mother would beg to differ. According to her, this is an example of her son’s main weakness.

“He doesn’t want to admit when he’s been beaten,” she said. “I scored on him. I’m smart; I’m not a coach for nothing.”

*****

After conversing with one another, Johnson, his mother, and McIntyre walk upstairs to a private office in the gym to meet with the college recruiters. They all stay in a meeting for 45 minutes talking about the program and how Johnson can help them. Whether Johnson chooses them or not, the adjustment to the college game does not scare him.

“I have a good solid foundation,” said Johnson. “The one part of my game that easily transfers is my knowledge of the game. I’m confident that I’ll do well wherever I may go.”

Now, with committing full-time to basketball, Johnson can develop and raise his game to the highest level.

“His ceiling in basketball is so high because he’s never just played one sport,” said McIntyre. “Now he can play basketball and grow his game even more. It’s going to be exciting to see Cam in the coming years.”

With only two months left in his senior year, Johnson finds himself reflecting on his journey and his legacy at Clarke Central. Johnson was a leader on the basketball team for four years. He was the same leader that lead his team to a 26-2 record as the Region 8-AAAAA player of the year. None of the individual honors matter to Johnson.

“I really hoped that I have touched a lot of people,” said Johnson. “I guess my legacy is a good football and basketball player. Above anything, I just hope I left a good impact for my school.”

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