January 6, 2013

Blackjack Johnson

Kevin McCarthy

Nab a spot on an all-tournament team and it's a nice honor. Grab the most valuable player trophy, well, that's a whole different world. Heritage High's George Johnson Jr. has just entered the latter realm.

photo of George Johnson

The 2012 Don Bambauer Classic at Marin Catholic High ended with the Patriots winning and Johnson lauded as the top performer. He also earned the nickname “Blackjack” (at least that's what we're calling him). Why so?

In the championship matchup, Heritage downed St. Joseph 72-52, with Johnson totaling 21 points. Preceding that was a 69-56 success against the hosts in which Johnson also ended up with 21 points. It was yet another 21 for him in an 80-66 victory versus Miramonte High but he began tourney play with 10 points in an opening round 65-63 win over Grant High. Plus, worthy of noting is a December 21 Heritage road victory over Castro Valley High in which Johnson buried six treys on his way to 30 points.

So it's been 19 points and eight assists a game this season after a quiet summer.

Why the difference for the 5-foot-10 backcourter? “I knew I was coming into my senior year so I've been staying in the gym and really working on my shooting,” he explained. “Before I was more streaky so I made it a goal to become more of a pure shooter.”

The Johnson 4.0 version has produced contact from the University of Hartford and Howard University, as well as Phillips Andover Academy, a prep school in Massachusets. San Francisco State has also recently come on strong with interest.

Heritage is also enjoying greater success this season. Coach Pat Cruickshank has the Patriots at 12-2 despite just two home games to date, with losses by two to Arcata and a trey against Dublin. So why the greater success as a team?

Johnson has a succinct answer: “This year, everyone has bought into defending.”

Besides Johnson, Heritage also features 6-foot-6 junior Shon Briggs as well as 6-foot-5 Pierre Carter as next level talents. But it's “Blackjack” leading the team while putting up points and assists.

He noted a difference from what is expected of him now as opposed to summer. “With Heritage I have to score more than when I was playing for the [Nevada] Wolverines. We had Hunter Myers (a forward who has signed with Harvard), Jamir Andrews from Dublin High and Pierre [Carter] so I was focused on running the offense.”

Johnson earned a 3.0 grade point average last semester and is looking to major in business administration.

As for play in the Bay Valley Athletic league, Johnson sees Deer Valley High and Freedom High as primary competitors. “Deer Valley is a powerhouse with Marcus Lee and Kendall Smith and Freedom has a lot of good players.”

But he was quick to add, “we feel we can compete with anybody.”

Watch the recent MVP Bambauer Classic video clip (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMzdiYVDXRE):