April 24, 2015

Johnson going keelhauling

Kevin McCarthy

How many prep basketball prospects end up signing with a school they didn't know existed just two short months ago? Sierra High's Hunter Johnson has done just that and he's elated about the opportunity.

photo of Hunter Johnson

The 6-foot-5 Johnson recently signed to play for Cal Maritime Academy Coach Bryan Rooney and enumerated his reasons for doing so. “They contacted me about playing basketball for them. I had never heard of it [Cal Maritime],” even though the distance between Manteca and Vallejo is just 78 miles. “But when I visited, I fell in love with the place, it was perfect. The staff were nice and Coach Rooney is an amazing coach.” That initial contact came just after Sierra's playoff game against Fairfield High on February 25 but Cal Maritime all along was performing its due diligence. “I didn't know it but he [Rooney] told me he had been at 10 of my games.”

Another factor in the decision is what Johnson's major will be -- Global Studies and Maritime Affairs. “It has to do with port security involving national security agencies and the FBI.” The interest is because Johnson's goal is to join the FBI as an agent. “I've always wanted to be a cop and this {his expected degree] will take the level a little higher.” He's bringing a 3.35 grade point average with him to Vallejo.

As to what he will bring to the Keelhauler program, Johnson said, “a positive attitude, giving my all. I want to make sure everybody is getting better everyday.”

An element that makes this turn of events more unusual is “until Coach Rooney, I had mostly been getting looks for football.” Johnson performed as a star wide receiver for the Timberwolves, then averaged 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds on the hardwood before currently taking to the baseball diamond as a first baseman and outfielder.

There also appears to be an element of Rooney seeing some of himself in Johnson. “Coach Rooney made a point on my visit. He played football at St. Mary's before switching to basketball” [and transferring first to San Joaquin Delta College and then Dominican University]. “Coach asked me what I liked to do after football practice or when I'm bored and want to do something. I said ‘shooting in the gym.’” Now the proverbial light bulb didn't necessarily go on at that moment for Johnson but it confirmed which sport brought him the greatest enjoyment.

Also, he'll be able to fine-tune his court skills in college “because I can focus on one sport. I've been told I'll be playing the four with the idea of transitioning to the three.”

Johnson cited two basketball moments as particular highlights, both taking place this season. “We started at the beginning of the season playing Golden Valley and we were up 30-0 at the end of the first quarter. This was with football players just getting back [to basketball]. I knew then we would do something special this season.” The other prominent point was “winning the section championship, the first time ever.”

So someone with his first name wants to become an FBI agent. Hollywood couldn't script a better scenario—Hunter and the hunted.