Get’cha head in the game


Photo by S. Snyder

Johnson warming up during his last regular season game against Perry Meridian. The Millers lost 24-28.

Lexi Leisure and Betsy Jones

It seems like high school is over in the blink of an eye; one second you’re walking into a new school on the first day of freshman year, and the next, you’re walking up to the podium on graduation day being handed your diploma. For senior Zack Johnson, this feeling is all too familiar, especially when it comes to his basketball career at NHS.

    “Freshman to senior year flew by. Coaches were always saying when I was a freshman, ‘These seniors are going to be gone next year and next thing you know the freshmen are going to be in the same spot,’” Johnson said.

         During Johnson’s freshman year, he impressed coaches enough to bypass the freshman team. He played most of that year on the junior varsity team and occasionally dressed for varsity. Johnson was becoming an asset to the boys basketball team, but injuries soon got between him and the court.

     “I’ve liked the way it’s gone the last four years,” Johnson said. “I wish I [had] stayed healthy all four years. [My senior year] is the first full season I’ve played since middle school.”

     Each year, something seemed to go wrong for Johnson. In freshman year, he strained his wrist and during his sophomore year, he was out with a concussion for three months.

     According to Johnson’s coach Brian McCauley, those injuries took a toll on him, as well as the team.

     “He got a concussion,” says McCauley. “And that really limited him and he missed a lot of the season.”

     “I was diving for a loose ball when I got kneed in the back of the head,” Johnson says about the game when he got his concussion. “Then I face planted on the floor. It was a double whammy.”

       His last injury occurred his junior year during a practice.

     “I tore tendons in my ankle and I wore a boot for a while,” Johnson said. “It still hurts today.”

     Completing a full season injury-free is something to be proud of, but Johnson is especially pleased because it has enabled him to help out his team more.

    “It feels so good. I’ve always felt like I’ve let my teammates down by being injured. I felt like we couldn’t play to our full potential and this year proved that [we can],” Johnson said. 

     Fellow teammate senior Jordan Schmidt has been playing with Johnson since sixth grade and says Johnson has grown into a different person on and off the court. When it came to his injuries, Schmidt said Johnson returned to the game stronger. 

     “When he comes back, he changes the whole dynamic of 

our team and makes us all better,”

Schmidt said. “[Johnson’s] a leader and lifts up others around him up. He makes them better and holds them accountable.”

     McCauley has seen Johnson grow physically and mentally over the years. 

     “He has a solid work ethic,” says McCauley, “He comes everyday focused and tries his best.”

     Many other players on the team, like senior Xavier Hines, noticed Johnson’s leadership abilities and nominated him to be a team captain this year.

     “[Johnson] is like a brother to me. He gets the job done for us and it has really helped our team this year,” Hines said. “He is a captain because a lot of the younger guys look up to him.”

     Johnson was taught at a young age how to be a leader while growing up with three younger siblings. His siblings look up to him, especially Johnson’s one and only sister, Mackenna, who always supports him on the sidelines.

     “My sister is probably my biggest fan. She comes to all of my games and keeps stats for me,” Johnson said. 

     Johnson’s biggest support comes from his parents. They have followed his entire basketball career, from driving him to and from practices to attending all his games.

     “My mom has pushed me the most outside of basketball with trainings and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “Meanwhile, my dad has been there for emotional support. There’s been times when basketball hasn’t been fun and I didn’t enjoy it, but he’s always been there to help me with that.”

     Throughout his basketball career, Johnson has relied on his faith in order to carry on tough practices and disappointing injuries.

     “He is a Christ follower and before every basketball game he says a prayer for our team that we win,” Schmidt said. 

     Johnson is hoping that his faith continues to lead him towards the right college and plans to continue to play basketball for whichever university he ends up choosing. 

     “I’ve gotten scholarship offers from schools like Lincoln Christian, Hanover, Franklin, and others” Johnson said, “I haven’t made a decision, but I have until around April.”

    No matter the decision, he will have the full support of his family and team.

     “The things that have made him successful up until this point in his life are [ultimately] going to continue to make him successful,” McCauley said.