Johnson leading Springwood to hot start

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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CJ Johnson quickly jumped onto the scene and showed the county that he would be one of the more dominant running backs in the area. Early on this season, Johnson has proved to be just as dominant on the hardwood. 

After a short adjustment period from football season, Johnson has burst onto the scene for Springwood. Johnson has averaged 20 points over the team’s last three games. 

It was a quick turnaround for Johnson, who was just playing in the 8-man football state championship less than a month ago. 

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“To me, I don’t think it was that hard,” Johnson said. “I had already been working during football season. All I had to do was just get on the court and play.” 

While focusing on football, Johnson did not get to spend a ton of time on the basketball court. Johnson still found time to improve his skills. During football season, Johnson worked on his dribble moves, finishing at the basket and shooting. 

Despite having limited time to work on these skills, there was little doubt that Johnson could contribute early on for the Wildcats. 

“I think you realize how good he was seeing him on the football field,” Springwood coach Lisa Sampson said. “Just an athletic kid. Football and basketball are a little different from the standpoint of your conditioning. He’s in great shape, but he had to get his basketball legs and his shot. As you can see, he really has done well getting back into the swing of basketball.”

Springwood is currently 6-1 on the season, and Johnson has been a big part of that hot start. However, there are several standouts for the Wildcats right now. Micah Thomas, Daniel Westbrook, Crawford Fuller and Greg Johnson have all been key parts of the current winning streak. 

With so many scoring options on the team, CJ Johnson has been free to play his own game and focus on making winning plays. 

“What’s great about this team is there really isn’t one standout guy,” Sampson said. “We’ve got just a lot of really good players. Not a whole lot of pressure on him to be the guy. The team chemistry is great.” 

Some players would have a hard time figuring out their role on a stacked team like Springwood but not CJ. Johnson has quickly figured out how to best suit the team on the offensive side. 

“I think my role should be getting my teammates open for shots and getting my shots at the same time,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to be like just a one-dimensional player.” 

Johnson has not just been a scoring machine this season, he has also been one of Springwood’s top defenders. 

“I know that if I need some lockdown defense on an opponent’s player, he’s the guy I’m going to put on that player,” Sampson said. “You never see him let up, you never see him get down. He’s just going to outwork you. He has that quiet toughness about him that every coach wants a player to have. It’s really hard to teach, he’s just got it.” 

Johnson’s ability on the defensive side comes from his mindset. Every time Johnson steps on the court, he believes that the opponent will not be able to score on him. 

“I think my mindset is just don’t let them get past me,” Johnson said. “I think nobody can get past me. That’s my mindset.” 

Johnson is the type of guard that most people would classify as a “bulldog” on defense. A lot of that comes from who he patterns his game after. 

Johnson looks up to Scoot Henderson for inspiration. Henderson was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2023 NBA Draft. 

“I want people to see me as like a dog,” Johnson said. “I love how he finishes around the basket, how he gets his shots.” 

Johnson has several goals this season. Johnson hopes to surpass 300 points, 75 assists and shoot above 50% from the field. Johnson’s biggest goal is to win a state championship as a Wildcat. 

Johnson has had several basketball coaches. Johnson transferred from Opelika to Springwood this year, and he also still plays travel ball in Opelika. 

Despite having all these coaches, his current coach has still left a major impact on him. 

“I just like the way that she pushes us,” Johnson said. “She doesn’t want to see us fail, she wants to see us win. She knows where I can get my shot up better.” 

Springwood has a very tight-knit group this season. The team has built relationships over the summer, and that has carried over to the chemistry on the court. Still, CJ and Greg Johnson’s connection as brothers is like no other. 

“They give the ball to me, and I look for him to score like he looks for me to score,” Johnson said. “We try to get each other points.”