Johnson at home playing for Annapolis

January 24, 1995|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun Staff Writer

At Annapolis High, Ronnie Johnson is more than a leading scorer and star basketball player. He's a model athlete, a source of pride, a young man who plays the way he practices.

"Ronnie is the kind of kid I want my team to be modeled after. I want them to take on his personality," said coach John Brady, who is in his 18th season as head coach of the Panthers.

"He truly takes a lot of pride in putting on the Annapolis uniform, reminds me of when I first started [1977-78] here. Guys in the past had a certain attitude and pride in their school and team that was bigger than their basketball ability."

It was in the sixth grade at Georgetown East in Annapolis that Johnson first dreamed of putting on the Panthers' maroon and royal blue. He played rec ball for Mount Olive and the Annapolis All-Stars before making the Annapolis JV as a freshman, averaging 11.6 points.

"The greatest players in the county played at Annapolis while I was growing up and I wanted to wear that uniform," said Johnson, who grew from 5 feet 9 in the eighth grade to his current 6-foot-3 frame.

"I was confident I would make the team," he said.

He made the varsity as a sophomore and got a lot of minutes before blossoming into an impact player last season on the 21-3 county champion and region runner- up Panthers.

Johnson led the Panthers in scoring with 15.3 points a game as a junior and was on a second-team pick on The Baltimore Sun's All-County.

He paces No. 13 Annapolis (10-3, 7-1) with his 17.6 average, including a season-high 27 (21 in second half) in a 67-66 thriller over defending 4A East Region champion Glen Burnie in December.

Friday, Johnson had 18 points and eight rebounds in a 78-74 victory over No. 13 Arundel (10-3, 5-1), which created a three-way tie for first in the county 4A league with the latter and Old Mill (9-4, 6-1). The win avenged a 66-64 loss to the Wildcats in which Johnson did not play.

"We really wanted to win [Friday]," Johnson said. "We played good the last time, but didn't box out at the end and missed a few plays we should have made. We've really picked it up since then."

natural left-hander with an accurate jumper and finger roll, he can score with either hand inside or out, and contributes his share on the boards and plays defense.

"He's the kind of player you can count on consistently every night," said Brady. "He reminds me of players like Kevin Thompson, Tim Brown and Jeff Brown [all former All-County players]. One of those guys you can pencil in for double figures every night.

"Ronnie has never had a bad practice. He plays to exhaustion in practice and in our games. That's why he's the player he is."

Johnson is being recruited by a number of junior colleges, including Northern Idaho where former Panthers Freddy Butler and Tracy "Go-Go" Evans played. Evans plays for nationally ranked NAIA Hawaii-Pacific.

"There are not a lot of feelers from Division I schools just yet, but I believe there will be by season's end after he takes his SATs," said Brady, who has two former Panthers playing Division I basketball.

Teddy Cottrell is a junior at top-ranked Massachusetts and Rob Wooster is a junior at St. Francis (Pa.). Dennis Edwards is a senior averaging over 40 points a game for Division II Fort Hays (Kan.) State and Jeff Brown is in his final year at NAIA New Mexico Highlands.

"Ronnie is a Division I athlete who is tough physically and mentally. He could have been a great football player had he played it. He qualifies with a 2.6 GPA in his core subjects and will take the SAT soon."

Brady expects Johnson to qualify academically and to draw the interest of college coaches .

Johnson is a tri-captain with guard Teshawn Cooper and 6-8 center Lenny Barber. It's a trio that Brady says is "the cornerstone of our team." It's a role that Johnson welcomes.

"Mr. Brady taught me how important it is to be a leader , and it's been a great experience," Johnson, 18, said. "The guys look up to me as a player and friend and know they can ask me for anything."

Ditto for his teachers, who don't have to ask.

"Ronnie's teachers all comment what a gentleman he is," Brady said. "He has pride in being successful in everything he does and, as a coach, I'm very proud of him."

Johnson is hoping to earn a college basketball scholarship, major in business administration and one day manage his own business.

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