'Que' receives support from unlikely source

WHEN IT COMES to rivalries, there's nothing quite like the one between the Cougars and Huskies. But over a three-month period this spring, future Coug Demarquise Johnson found support from an unlikely source. Indeed, Johnson found himself living in Tacoma with someone who treated him like a brother, welcomed him into his home -- and plans to wear the purple and gold.

The player in question? It was future Husky Mark McLaughlin.

A major assist also belongs to Johnson's former AAU coach, Clint Parks. He moved to Tacoma from Brentwood, California to go back to school, support McLaughlin and help him "through anything." The two will be graduating together from TCC later this month.

Parks, who coached Johnson for three years on Team Eleate, told CF.C he met McLaughlin through a mutual friend last year, and has been training him ever since.

Johnson, meanwhile, had finished up all his class requirements at Westwind Prep, and headed to Tacoma as well. It was a decision, Parks said, that paid major dividends.

"He developed a lot," Parks said. "Anytime you can go against someone like Mark on a day-to-day basis, it's only going to make you better. I told Que I didn't care who he played in prep school, there was no one better than Mark. He's (McLaughlin) an opposite player so he got to learn the game from the different standpoint of not having to rely on athletic ability."

JOHNSON AND McLAUGHLIN were essentially attached at the hip this spring.

"Working with Mark definitely helped me a lot," Johnson said. "He's like an image of me, but he's also got some size on me so it got me used to having to work with bigger players. It made me stronger and helped my game."

McLaughlin, also a great passer, topped all junior college scorers with 28.4 ppg in the regular season, (27.5 ppg overall). He led Tacoma Community College to the NWAACC championship and is scheduled to start classes at the UW on July 17.

"He's a really big guard," McLaughlin said of Que. "He can shoot it and he has a good feel for the game. It was good for both of us because we're wings and we went after each other. The only thing he needs to work on a bit is his ball handling, but he's an amazing talent who is going to be very successful."

While still playing for TCC, McLaughlin worked out with Johnson every day on top of his practices. Going at one another, running drills and getting better every day was the main goal. Mission accomplished, said Park.

"He's like a little brother to Mark," Parks said. "He looks up to Mark -- he was great for Que. You couldn't have asked for a better situation."

After graduating from Kenmore's Inglemoor High in 2008, McLaughlin went on a roller coaster ride. He committed and then de-committed from two schools, (WSU and Nevada) and left Baylor. He eventually wound up at Seattle University. After a year, he left the Red Hawks' program, and enrolled at TCC. Given all those experiences, McLaughlin said he wanted impart to Johnson lessons learned both on and off the court.

"Que's like my litter brother," McLaughlin said. "I tried to teach him things about the game and I try giving him advice whenever I can because I went through a lot of things from high school to college. I don't want him to make the same mistakes I did."

McLAUGHLIN SAID Johnson at one point was down in the dumps about not passing the SAT. But apart from Johnson, there was probably no one happier than McLaughlin and Parks when the future Coug got that qualifying score.

"I was really proud of him because a lot of people didn't think he would get that score and I know it meant a lot to him because he was struggling," McLaughlin said. "When he texted me saying he passed, I was so happy for him."

"He earned that score," Parks added. "He put the time in and got it done."

THAT DIDN'T STOP the trash talk this spring. Johnson said the two would jaw back and forth about the Cougs and Huskies. Johnson jokingly said that McLaughlin was the instigator most of the time.

"Yeah he talked a lot but it was fun though," Johnson said. "It's going to be fun playing against him because he's such a good player. I'm just excited about the thought of playing D-1. I'll work hard and try my best."

"It was fun," McLaughlin added. "We have a little friendly rivalry. Every night we'd talk about playing against each other on TV next season. We just can't wait for it."

Neither can the Cougar Nation.

  • Johnson is still waiting to hear from the NCAA on his eligibility for next season. Even though he achieved a qualifying score on the SAT, Johnson said the NCAA is still looking over his courses taken at Westwind. Johnson remains optimistic that he will be given the green light. "I hope everything goes smoothly," Johnson said. "I just don't want to jinx it."

  • Johnson is currently back home in Michigan working out. He arrived a week ago after spending a short time in Arizona to train and attend his sister's high school graduation.

  • Johnson also said he is still in communication with Westwind teammate Richard Peters. The center signed a LOI with the Cougars, but failed to qualify academically and will attend a JC this fall. Johnson said he and Peters talk regularly and that the plan for him is to receive his AA and then in two years time rejoin Johnson in Pullman.

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