Stepping out: Junior basketball player looks to establish himself as an individual outside brothers legacy

Junior TJ Johnson has been playing basketball since the third grade and currently starts as a shooting guard for the Vikings. Last year, TJ played on varsity with his brother Rodney who was able to dominate on the court standing at 6’5” and 210 lbs. Though Rodney casts a big shadow, TJ has stepped into the light on his own to make his presence known on the court.

“It was exciting to play with my brother last year because it was my sophomore year and it was his senior year,” TJ said. “It was a great experience to be on the court with him every day.”

TJ recognizes that people compare him to his brother, but does not let that stand in the way of him making his own mark.  

“I want to make my own name on the team,” TJ said. “I try to do that by being coachable and by being a leader to the team.” 

Though varsity head coach Jonathan Hines sees some similarities between the brothers on the court, their differences stand out to make them individual quality players.

“TJ is a little bit better, as a junior, with getting to his spots and shooting the ball than Rodney was,” Hines said. “As a senior, Rodney was phenomenal and had a huge leap from his junior year, to senior year and I totally anticipate TJ having a huge year next year as he continues to grow.”

Hines recognizes how TJ was able to benefit from playing with Rodney as he already looked up to him as his older brother.

“TJ was able to learn a lot from Rodney last year while they were on varsity together,” Hines said. “His leadership style is similar, to a point, but TJ is his own guy and has matured a lot.”

Though TJ is still growing into his role as a leader on the team, he already exhibits many of the qualities required to lead a team.

 “His work ethic is his biggest asset,” Hines said. “He hasn’t quite learned the communication part of that, but he is working on it. Moving forward I think, as he continues to mature, he is going to be a great leader for this team.”

Teammate senior Seandre Collins also believes that TJ is a great leader and example to the team by how he approaches the game day in and day out.

“TJ is a leader on the team because he comes to practice every day and pushes everybody on the team to be better,” Seandre said. “Even with everything going on this season, he is still playing the same way while pushing everybody to do their best.”

Hines has set many goals for the team to accomplish this season and sees TJ playing an integral role in achieving those goals.

“We have multiple goals and we put them into stages,” Hines said. “The first goal was to win double-digit games, and they have accomplished that. The next goal was to win seventeen games, and we have just accomplished that as well. Now our next goal is to have a twenty-win season, and once we get to twenty, we will hit that fourth goal to make it into the playoffs.”

Through dedication and determination, TJ has continued to work to improve his skills and become a better all-around player to secure his place in history as a Viking basketball player.

“Over the summer, TJ has grown as a player, and now he is able to score from all three levels,” Hines said. “He can attack the basket and finish around the rim. His athleticism lets him be a high flier and his mid-range jumper is almost impossible to guard because of his ability to get in the air. He is also knocking down the three balls with consistency, so I am pleased with his offensive game.”