ovann Johnson took a long, circuitous road to fulfill his dream of playing Division I college basketball, so it came as little surprise that he was very thorough before finally deciding on UMass.
Johnson, a 6-3, 200 pound swingman from Wabash Valley C.C. in Mt. Carmel, Ill., recently chose the Minuteman program over Ohio University. He sent the paperwork into Amherst this week and is looking forward to the challenge of competing in the Atlantic 10.
"First of all, it's a good team in a good conference," Johnson said. "UMass gets a lot of media coverage, which means that my family and my people back in Tennessee will get to see me on television. I always wanted to play at the high Division I level, so I want to take this opportunity and run with it."
A native of Johnson City, Tenn., Johnson spent a year at Milford Academy in Connecticut before trekking up to North Idaho J.C. in Coeur d'Alene in 1997-98. He finished up his JUCO career in fine fashion at Wabash Valley this past season, dumping in close to 18 points per game.
Johnson's visits to UMass and Ohio University were quite distinct. When he went to Ohio U, school was still in session and he got a real flavor for campus life at the Athens, Ohio school. When he visited UMass in early June, all of the students were home on break, but he was fortunate enough to meet a number of the Minutemen players that were enrolled in summer school courses.
"I was impressed with the fact that none of the players had a negative word to say about the coaches, either Coach [Bruiser] Flint or Coach [Geoff] Arnold," Johnson said. "But I know that I am going to have to go in and work hard, because (the coaches) did not promise me anything. I am going to have to work for my keep."
Johnson spoke with his ex-high school coach and his older brother Damon (who played at Tennessee) before making his decision. But his meddlesome friends were more vocal about where he should go.
"They all remember the days when Marcus Camby was there, and they were telling me to pick UMass," Johnson said. "It was all because of UMass' name."
Johnson will be eligible this fall at UMass, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining to help Brisuer Flint and Co. turn things around after a subpar 1998-99 campaign in Amherst.
Other schools which Johnson had considered throughout the recruiting process were Rutgers, Marquette and South Florida.