Mitch Johnson year-end wrap

When I think of John Johnson of Seattle (Super) Sonics lore, I think of a player that used to can mid-range jumpers with the flattest shot I'd ever seen. The ball used to hit iron and go through the hoop with a ferocity and speed unmatched in that era. When I see JJ's son, Mitch, the 6-1 junior guard from Seattle (Wash.) O'Dea, I don't see those patened JJ pancake jumpers but I do see that same court savvy and ballhandling skills.

"I have a couple of people I work out with, but he's the main one," Mitch told of his relationship with his father. "I talk to him a couple of times every day and most of the conversations are always about basketball. He's taught me about every aspect of the game. Not even just the game, but the knowledge of the game and the things that come with the game - on and off the court. He's a great resource to have. I'm lucky to have him."

JJ's presence was no more evident than during O'Dea's championship effort against heralded Rainier Beach. Beach was going for an unprecedented three-peat. "It was a game of spurts," Johnson said of the game between the Irish and Vikings. "We were up by a lot at the start, I think 15 at halftime, but they made a big comeback in the second half and got up in the fourth quarter but we tied it up. They missed a layin at the end of regulation, so we went into overtime.

"In double-overtime, C.J. Giles, their big guy, fouled out. We just hit our free-throws down the stretch and ended up beating them."

Johnson knows quite a bit of Giles and Terrence Williams, the other top Viking. "They are extremely athletic," said Mitch. "You have to know where they are at all times. At any point they can jump out in the passing lanes. Chester is so long he'll block your shot, so you've got to pick your points when you drive the lane. If you just keep going in there to him, he'll get you. He's a good shot-blocker."

Clearly a championship run would validate any season, but Mitch appeared to relish the process more than the final result. "That (championship) really capped it off, but at the start of this year we had a lot of young guys, guys that didn't have that much experience, so I had to be a leader and not necessarily carry them, but get them ready for the end of the season," he said. "I knew that if we progressed and got better as the season went on we could be pretty good and we did a good job of that."

"Individually-speaking, there's always things you can improve on, but I'm pretty happy. There were some times were I could have been more aggressive, especially with the way our team is, that's one thing I needed to do more of, but I feel like I did pretty well."

Johnson now goes from high school ball to Friends of Hoop with Martell Webster, Jon Brockman, Micah Downs and Ryan Staudacher, among others. They are sponsored by Nike, so they'll definitely be going to some Nike camps this summer.

Mitch wasn't that involved in recruiting during O'Dea's season, but expects things to heat up in March. "Right now I'd probably say Stanford, Kansas, Washington, Purdue, Connecticut and Florida," he said when asked about college interest. "Those are probably the schools I get the most mail from. Things will probably kick in more pretty soon. I'm going to keep it wide open, see how the summer goes."

And when it comes to a timeline to make his decision? "I'm about as far away as you could be," was his response.

According to Johnson, Washington has offered a scholarship and Stanford is knocking on the door. "With Stanford, you have to go through the admissions process, but they've told me that they would love to offer me after I do the paperwork," he said. "I don't know if that necessarily means I've been offered though."

He also talked a little about UW's upset of the Cardinal at home. 'I got a chance to watch part of it," said Mitch. "I was disappointed that I couldn't go to the game, but I was in the state championship game, so I wasn't too disappointed. But I would have loved to go to that game and it looked like it was a great game. I'm happy for Coach (Lorenzo) Romar and Coach (Cameron) Dollar."

What do Romar and Dollar tell Mitch about rejuvenating Husky basketball? "They just always say that they are trying to build something that people can enjoy and it can start being a tradition-rich school," he said. "They say that UW can be a basketball school too and they are trying to get it back for the people in the city, so they can be excited about it. They want to be regulars in the NCAA tournament, year-in and year-out."

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