Archdeacon: For Flyers’ Chase Johnson, time for life to imitate art

For Chase Johnson, there is one question:

“What time is it?”

If you look on the upper left arm of the 6-foot-9 Dayton Flyers’ forward, you see the favorite of his 14 tattoos, a portrait of the Joker looking quite nefarious.

“Everybody thinks he looks scary,” he smiled. “He’s my favorite movie character. I grew up watching him. He’s holding a clock with the time I was born: 11:32.”

Johnson’s mom, Renee, said it actually was 11:51 p.m. at the Charleston, W.V. children’s hospital but it’s understandable if there’s a few minutes discrepancy. She, nor her husband Chad, would tell their 20-year-old son the exact time he was born.

“It was funny because he sent me and his mom a text that said, ‘Hey, when was I born?’” Chad said by phone Wednesday from the job he works in Columbus during the week before returning home to Ripley W.Va. on the weekends.

“I responded back, ‘No! You don’t need another tattoo!’ I knew exactly what he was doing. So I wouldn’t tell him. I don’t know if my wife did or not.”

By phone from Ripley, where she works as a nurse, Renee said: “He got the time from somebody in the family. I wouldn’t tell him either. To me there’s no rhyme or reason to all those tattoos. They drive me crazy. I think they look like prison tattoos.”

Chad didn’t go that far: “I just said, ‘You don’t need any more.’”

What Chase Johnson did need was a chance to show once again what he’s really about on the basketball court.

And that brings us to Tuesday night at UD Arena.

It may go down as the time Johnson was reborn.

Coming off the bench, he led the No. 19 Flyers with 18 points in a 99-68 victory over winless Houston Baptist. In just over 13 ½ minutes on the court, he made nine of 10 shots – several of them dunks – and had two rebounds, an assist and no turnovers.

“It felt awesome,” Johnson said. “I was really happy our team played well. It’s been long time since I’ve really been able to play this way.”

Before transferring to Dayton in early January, he spent a season and a half at Florida, although injures – including at last three concussions and a freak neck injury — limited him to just six games and 53 total minutes on the court for the Gators.

Closer to home

Coming out of high school – he was a 1,000 point scorer at Ripley High School by the time he was a junior and played his senior season at national power Huntington Prep – he was a four-star recruit with scholarship offers from dozens of schools, including West Virginia, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia Tech, South Carolina Tennessee, Penn State and Virginia.

Freshman year at Florida he suffered two inadvertent elbows to the head in practice, one in mid-October and another by mid-November, after which, Chad said, the school, rightfully “shut him down for the season.”

He was granted a medical redshirt and returned last season, only to suffer a neck injury in a one-on-one drill in practice and then another concussion.

He decided to transfer for a few reasons, Chad said:

“From the mental aspect of being injured most of the time, he needed a fresh start somewhere. And getting closer to home would be a bonus.”

He drew interest from several schools. Pittsburgh brought him in for a visit and so did UD, with then-assistant coach Donnie Jones – a fellow West Virginian – leading the recruitment.

Johnson and his parents were invited to watch the Flyers’ 94-90 victory over Georgia Southern from behind the bench last Dec. 29. The following week he made his official visit to UD and quickly committed.

“Donnie did a good job connecting with us and so did Coach Grant,” Chad said. “Chase had 20-plus offers and we made a lot of unofficial visits and were around a lot of coaching staffs. You can get the feel of who is genuine and UD was.

“Dayton focused on getting Chase back to Chase. That’s how they sold us. They said, ‘If we do that, everything else will play out.’”

To meet transfer rules Johnson sat out the second part of last season and was expected to have to sit the first semester this year until an appeal by UD – with the help of Florida – was granted by the NCAA.

Johnson started the Flyers’ season opener and has played in every game since.

In just seven games he’s already eclipsed all his Florida career stats.

He’s played 83:21 minutes and scored 39 points, making 18 of 23 shots for an unfathomable 78.3 percent from the floor.

‘Reality check’

Tuesday night was the Flyers’ first game since their impressive three-game showing at the Maui Invitational – clobbering Georgia and Virginia Tech before losing to Kansas in overtime in the title game — and their subsequent No. 19 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

UD Arena was abuzz over the nationally-embraced Flyers, but the team struggled early against the injury-riddled Huskies, who had given up over 100 points in each of their last three games, blowout losses to Texas Tech, Michigan and Houston.

The Flyers trailed by nine points, 20-11, at the 14:22 mark of the first half.

Grant suggested sometimes a team needs “a reality check” and said that’s what the first 10 minutes of the game could have been.

He praised the way players came off the Flyers bench and “understood the urgency” they needed to play with.

That group was led by Johnson, but also had major contributions from sharp-shooter Ibi Watson ( 4 of 7 from three-point range), Jhery Matos, who hit back-to-back threes to help turn the game around and 6-foot-11 transfer Jordy Tshimanga, playing in just his third game after being sidelined several weeks with a knee injury. He finished with eight points and five rebounds and showed some defensive improvement.

Grant especially praised the energy Johnson brought to the floor and said the more he plays the more you’ll likely see him blossom.

Chad - who was at UD Arena Tuesday night while his wife watched their younger sons, six-foot-seven senior Ty and six-foot-nine freshman Luke, play for Ripley High that night - agreed with Grant: “From a parental standpoint, I can see it coming back to him. He just needs to be patient with the process. Coach Grant and the staff are handling him great.

“Chase is a super athlete and is super skilled, but you’d never know it. Not until he can get out there and get comfortable and finally show it again.”

He did some of that on Tuesday and that’s what got him into the postgame pressroom to talk about his game and – when pressed – his tats

There’s a panther, a guardian angel and the sayings “Fear None” and “Beyond Blessed.”

His other favorite though is a skull wearing a top hat with an ace of spades in the brim and a smoke clenched in is teeth.

He said it’s a tribute to his late grandfather, Roger Carte:

“When I was growing up, I kind of got to know him. He was really cool. He was kind of like a gangster.”

“He was a retired truck driver,” Renee said of her dad. “But he was quite a story teller. He had a hook and he told our three boys he was a pirate. Before he died, he never told them any differently.”

To the boys – especially Chase, whom she calls a 2.0 version of his granddad – he was bigger than life.

While Chad and Renee aren’t big on the tattoos, the ink work does help provide the answer to that question:

“What time is it?”

Time for life to imitate all that art.

Time to get “Beyond Blessed.”

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