Boys basketball: Unselfish, team-first approach hallmark of Wayne senior

Wayne's Prophet Johnson led the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring (20.3 points per game) and steals (3.5) this season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED
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Wayne's Prophet Johnson led the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring (20.3 points per game) and steals (3.5) this season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Led by Prophet Johnson, Warriors in the Division I district semifinals

HUBER HEIGHTS – Considering his first name, it’s not surprising Wayne High School senior Prophet Johnson preaches the boys basketball team’s fundamental rules – play unselfish and make the extra pass.

Johnson, the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s player of the year, led the conference in scoring at 20.2 points per game. He also finished fourth in assists with 3.9. Both of those talents were on display in the Warriors’ 85-46 Division I sectional tournament victory over Piqua on Feb. 20.

Johnson, a 6-foot-4 guard, tied teammate Malcom Curry with a game-high 16 points, both on identical 6-for-8 shooting efforts. Johnson also handed out five assists, few prettier than the two that set up consecutive dunks for his teammates.

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Midway through the third quarter a Johnson delivered a bounce pass from the backcourt to senior Cam Fancher, who was sprinting down the left side of the court. Fancher finished off the pass with a slam. Johnson, standing near midcourt, skied to grab a high pass as Piqua tried to push the ball up court. Johnson then dished off to sophomore Lawrent Rice for another dunk.

Johnson, off another steal, got his dunk two minutes later on a one-hand slam.

“‘I’m always happy to see my teammates eating. Everybody eats,” Johnson said of incorporating everyone into the offense. “The brotherhood on the team is amazing. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a great team. … We have such good chemistry together.”

Wayne (16-4) plays Lebanon (16-3) in a D-I district semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Centerville High School. The winner advances to the district title game on March 6.

“We work every day on making the right pass and making the extra pass,” Wayne coach Nate Martindale said. “They’re an extremely unselfish group. They care about each other. … I think that’s what makes them special.”

Johnson played at Northmont his freshman and sophomore seasons and Thurgood Marshall his junior season. He said he grew up with some of the Warriors players, including playing on the AAU level, and they convinced him to attend Wayne for his senior season.

“I was already friends with everyone,” Johnson said. “They were just talking to me about it. It felt like home so I came.”

Wayne's Prophet Johnson led the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring (20.3 points per game) and steals (3.5) this season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Wayne's Prophet Johnson led the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring (20.3 points per game) and steals (3.5) this season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Johnson’s basketball family helped him celebrate a milestone during the Piqua victory. He opened the game with a layup for his 1,000th career point. He received a game ball and took a few quick photos with teammates and family before resuming the game.

“I was nervous,” Johnson said prior to the basket. “Don’t miss. That’s what it was.”

“Prophet this year has been Mr. Consistent,” Wayne coach Nate Martindale said. “I think the last 10 out of 13 games he’s scored at least 20 points. He brings it. He’s a competitor. You can just tell he’s got that mental toughness about him. He attacks the game from the time it begins to the time it’s over. That’s what I love about him.”

He gets that toughness and love for the game honestly. His grandfather, Harold, played in college at Tennessee Tech, Allegany junior college and then Oral Roberts University. He played professionally overseas in France, Israel, Italy, Philippines and Spain. He also had stints with the NBA’s Bulls, Cavaliers and Lakers but never made the roster.

Johnson’s father, DeJuan, played high school basketball at Jefferson. He also schooled his son during pick-up games in the driveway.

“He used to pick on me. Beat on me. Make me tougher,” Johnson said, smiling. “I think it’s where this comes from, just him pushing me. … Right now I can definitely take him. I’m too fast for him.”

The GWOC can relate. Johnson led the conference in scoring and steals (3.5), was second in field-goal percentage (60.5 percent; 155 for 256), was fourth in assists and fifth in rebounds (7.6).

“I wasn’t really focused on (GWOC player of the year), but everybody was telling me I was going to get it,” said Johnson, who if he had a vote (and couldn’t vote for himself) would have picked Centerville junior Tom House. “It’s a big accomplishment. Blessed. I appreciate them for voting for me. I’m just thankful for it.”

He’s also grateful for his Warriors’ teammates. Along with Johnson, Rice (13.3) and Curry (10.8) average double digits. Rice leads the team with 4.9 assists.

The Warriors are senior-strong with Ben Palma, Christian Rand, Jeremiah Thompson, Curry, Fancher and Johnson. They helped Wayne share the GWOC title with Centerville (19-3), both with 6-1 conference records.

Rice joined Johnson as a GWOC first-team selection, while Curry and Fancher were second team with Palma and junior Aamil Wagner special mentions.

“We have a great group of kids and a great group of seniors,” Martindale said. “We’re just focused on the next game.”

And that next pass.