Providence Day track coach Carol Lawrence remembers when she met Isaac Johnson.
Lawrence says she and Johnson, then a rising seventh-grader, saw “eye-to-eye,” literally, because they both were 5-foot-2.
“I remember Isaac was a good athlete and he could already run and jump very well,” said Lawrence, an All-American high jumper and hurdler at New York Institute of Technology. “I thought he had a lot of potential even then, but you never know how kids are going to develop both physically and athletically.”
Five years later, Johnson now stands 6-foot-8, 205 pounds, and recently finished his senior year at Providence Day in “dream-like” fashion.
Johnson helped the Providence Day basketball team to their first NCISAA 3A state championship since 1999. The Chargers won a school record 30 games (30-3 overall) with Johnson averaging 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, three assists and one steal per game.
Then, Johnson and his Providence Day basketball team (ranked No. 18 in the country by USA Today) traveled to New York City for the Dicks’ Sporting Goods’ High School National Invitational. The Chargers got to play Montverde at Christ the King High (New York) in front a national television audience on ESPN2.
After that, Johnson went on to the track team.
The 18-year-old won individual NCISAA 3A state titles in the high jump and 110-meter hurdles on May 21. He also finished as state runner-up in the 300-meter hurdles and 6th in the state in the 200-meter dash.
Johnson set six school records this season, and now holds the Providence Day mark in the 60, 110, 300 and 400 meter-hurdles, the high jump, the 200-meter dash.
He also was part of a Charger boys’ and girls’ track team that won four straight NCISAA 3A state championships – a first in the school’s history.
“This whole season was like a dream come true,” said Johnson. “I’m definitely going to look back on my whole senior year and remember how many great things happened.
“This whole year has been rewarding because we (seniors) have worked so hard to get here, all the games, all the practices, on weekends, holidays. It’s great to see that all that work is paying off.”
Johnson also has cemented his college future. In April, he signed to play basketball at Appalachian State University.
Johnson will report to Boone on June 27 for the second summer school session. He will join the Mountaineers’ basketball team in August for a late summer tour in Italy.
“Knowing that I am a college basketball player now is an amazing feeling,” said Johnson. “I feel like I have a lot to work on and of course I need to get in the weight room. But I feel like my best basketball is still ahead of me.”
Mountaineers Coach Jim Lawrence and Providence Day basketball coach, Brian Field say Appalachian State “got a steal” in Johnson.
“Isaac is just coming out of his shell now,” Lawrence said. “Appalachian State got lucky. When everyone else was overlooking him, App. State hit the jackpot.”
Field said “Isaac is going to be an absolute steal for Appalachian State They got an absolute winner in Isaac Johnson. He’s just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of doing on the basketball court.”
Being a college athlete is nothing new to the Johnson family. Isaac’s father, Ronnie (played football and ran track) and mother, Vanessa (basketball, track, volleyball) were multi-sport athletes at Winston-Salem State.
Meanwhile, both of the Johnson’s older sisters ran college track – Tierra (former Berry Academy standout) at Western Carolina University, and Varonica (also former Providence Day star) at Villanova University.
Ronnie Johnson also played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears.
“My family has always motivated me to push myself to get better,” said Johnson, whose mom, Vanessa, also is his high jump coach. “I know how hard I have to work to get where I want to go. I’ve always looked at what (my family) achieved and wanted to be better than that.”
Johnson is eager to get his college basketball career started, but says he will draw on his experiences at Providence Day for the rest of his life.
“My whole high school career at Providence Day was the best, and every year I tried to pushed myself to get better,” said Johnson, who boasts an A-B average in the classroom. “But my senior year was really amazing and I was proud of the accomplishments we were able to achieve. I’m excited about college, but it’s sad that my time at Providence Day is over. High school basketball and track were some of the best days of my life.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.