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GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - His eyes red and cheeks moist moments after his turnover sealed Long Island Lutheran’s fate in the state Federation Class A final, won by Jamesville-DeWitt, 70-66, Kevin Johnson could hardly speak to describe his disappointment.
But in two years, the Cambria Heights native has come a long way. From not playing high school basketball at Martin Van Buren because of poor grades to becoming the starting point guard for the Crusaders in the state championship game.
Johnson, a 5-foot-10 guard, had attended the Brookville, Long Island school’s instructional basketball camps for years, so when he struggled at Van Buren, the coaching staff at Lutheran suggested he make the hour-and-a-half commute.
“I felt coming to LuHi (Long Island Lutheran) was a good move,” he said. “As a student, teachers keep me in check, help me keep my grades up. As a player, coaches doing the same thing, helping me improve my game and decision-making when there are better players around me.”
Johnson was a major reason Lutheran was even playing last Saturday night. He had 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals in the 77-66 semifinal victory over Bishop Ford, and suggested to Coach Brian Carey to trap the Falcons full-court in the final minutes to get the ball out of the hands of point guard Chaz Williams.
“Every time he says [something about defense], it works,” teammate Jordan Henriquez said. “He saw a weakness in their offense and we worked at it.”
“He’s got a real high basketball IQ,” Carey said.
He wasn’t nearly as superb against the Red Rams (26-2), finishing with just six points and four assists. With 5.4 seconds remaining, and Lutheran trailing by just three, Johnson was assigned to inbound the ball. Only he missed center Shamar Stephen and the ball found its way to Jamesville-DeWitt center Nick Pascale, who iced it from the free-throw line.
“It’s tough, especially when you lose by a small amount of points,” Johnson whispered. “It hurts.”
Either way, his move to Long Island has set him up nicely. Johnson has yet to receive heavy Division I interest, but after another year at Lutheran (23-6) it could develop, talent evaluator Tom Konchalski said.
“He’s quick, he has a good feel for the game, he’s a good defensive player, but he has to shoot the ball a little more consistently,” said Konchalski, publisher of the High School Basketball Insider, a recruiting pamphlet distributed to college coaches. “He has a chance to be a lower Division I player. The ball is in his court. It depends on how much he works and how much better he gets between now and next year.”

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