RALEIGH, N.C. – It happens every year. Maybe he’s a high-level guy, maybe a mid-major but some senior gets hot in a state tournament and earns himself a scholarship. This year, that guy in the state of North Carolina is shooting guard Thomas Johnson (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover).
Johnson shot 38 percent from 3-point land during the season but in the last three weeks that number shot up to 52 percent. He went for 29 in the regional final and 24 in Saturday’s state title win over favored West Charlotte. For a guy who’s a noted slasher, the eruption from deep is what is going to get him his Division I scholarship in the next two months.
“You open up his chest and his heart is huge,” New Hanover coach Kirk Angel said. “The edge and toughness he plays with is tremendous. He’s always had that.”
Johnson has an offer from Campbell and Boston University at least called on him. On Sunday, one day after the state title win, his mother moved to Ohio. Johnson’s from a military family so he’ll go anywhere.
His biggest strength? “My killer mentality,” Johnson said. “I always felt like I could score but now when I feel like I need to turn it on I can.”
He can, he has and now he’s earned a scholarship … somewhere.
I asked Johnson what he would tell a college coach who might want to recruit him but knows nothing about him. “I’d tell him I’m a hard worker, dedicated. I’ll take no plays off. Hard work is in my blood. It comes from my mom; she works hard. She’s moving (Sunday) to Ohio and she’s taking a job at the Ford place in Lima, Ohio. She’s a workaholic. She works hard for us to eat and that’s where I get it from.”
Allen on the rise
Last year, Kadeem Allen (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover) was in limbo. A good player with no direction. Fast forward a year and he was so emotional he could barely get off the floor to accept his MVP award following a 21-point eruption in the 4A state title.
Allen has grade issues. He’s going to work to try and qualify but prep or junior college may be in his cards. Temple likes him, so does East Carolina. VCU and the Pirates saw him the other night and the guy goes so hard and challenges for dunks off the drive.
Meeks almost gets record, comes up short
West Charlotte won last year’s state championship as then sophomore Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) scored 12 points and hauled in 19 rebounds. This year, Meeks lost the state title game to New Hanover but he did have 21 rebounds, two shy of the record held by current Miami center Reggie Johnson.
Georgetown, the team Meeks said was on him the hardest, was front and center for Saturday’s game. NC State dispatched an assistant too.
Mitchell offers glimpse into the future
Shelton Mitchell (Waxhaw, N.C./Cuthbertson) is growing into one of the top point guard prospects in his class. The 6-3 sophomore was the best player on the floor in the 2A state championship game. However, Cuthbertson suffered a tough loss to Kinston.
Less than 24 hours after the loss, Mitchell sent his coach the following message: “When can I get in the gym?”
“I get to school every day at 7 a.m. and he’s already there,” Cuthbertson coach Mike Helms said. “He shows up every morning at 6:15 a.m. and the custodian lets him in. He does a shooting workout, jumps rope, and works on ballhandling. He works for an hour, grabs a shower and then goes to school. That’s what’s impressed me the most is he’s done this from day one. He wanted a key to the gym but they won’t let kids do that anymore.”
Wake Forest (attended the game), Charlotte, Missouri and South Carolina are his four offers. VCU was there and I’m sure they’d love to have him and the Clemson Tigers likely feel the same way. “Clemson’s probably recruited him the hardest,” Helms said. “They just don’t have a scholarship in that year (yet).”
Mitchell’s got tremendous length and super vision but he’s not quick. Hey, neither is Kendall Marshall but you get the picture. The kid goes hard to the rim, takes his licks and makes his free throws. He’s a pure point guard and leader. He’s a high-level recruit.
“However good this kid can be, he’s going to be,” Helms said. “He’s going to reach his potential.”
Look out for Ingram
The Kinston Vikings could be the premier public school program in the state of North Carolina. In order to do that, you need good coaching (Wells Gulledge is one of the best) and good players. Kinston counts Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Bullock, Herbert Hill and Charles Shackleford as alums. There was once a kid there named Bo Ingram who was an all-stater. However, he might not even be the best Ingram from his family to play at Kinston when it’s all said and done.
Brandon Ingram (Kinston, N.C./Kinston) is a 6-5 freshman swingman with a Tayshuan Prince-body who is equipped with zero fear of the moment. He came off the bench firing shots and made two enormous free throws late in the game to help his team win. File the name away. VCU, ECU, Wake Forest, Georgetown and every other college coach in the building last Saturday circled, bolded and highlighted his name. He could be a special one.