Author: Ryan Whalen
For the past three years, forward Andrew Johnson (junior) has played an integral role on the Occidental men’s basketball team (10-10 overall; 4-7 SCIAC). The 6-foot-5-inch team captain has acted as the cornerstone of the Tigers offense and defense, leading the team in rebounds per game while also averaging at least 10 points per game in each of his first three seasons. Furthermore, Johnson has continued to develop and improve his effectiveness on both sides of the court with every season.
“AJ is having a fantastic junior year,” Head Coach Brian Newhall said. “His conditioning has jumped a full level and he has been able to avoid injuries all season. In turn, his overall level of play has taken off, and he has increased his consistency and competed at an All-SCIAC level all year long.”
Johnson’s road to being a three-year college starter began long before he donned the orange and black Occidental uniform. His basketball career started back when he was 11 years old. From there, Johnson continued to play and progress, honing his game through middle school, high school and, finally, here at Occidental.
When Johnson is not on the basketball court or in the gym, he likes to relax by watching movies or reading science fiction books. When taking a break from physically working out, he also enjoys breaking a bit of a mental sweat during his downtime as well.
“I like puzzles such as sudoku and I have started playing chess and trivia games,” Johnson said.
As a first year, he played in all 25 games, starting all but one. The young forward was one of six players in the entire NCAA to average at least 11 PPG and 6.5 RPG.
Johnson picked up the pace statistically in his second season, scoring 14.8 PPG while grabbing just over seven rebounds a night. His biggest improvement happened this past season, as he again increased his PPG (17.9) and RPG (7.8) totals while also putting up a team leading 2.8 assists per game. Additionally, Johnson leads the teams in steals, picking an average of 1.3 pockets a game.
“I believe he is also the toughest matchup for other SCIAC teams because offensively he can score both on the catch and off the bounce,” teammate Spencer Levy (senior) said. “Every time AJ catches the ball, teams have to decide whether or not to double, and when he is doubled, he quickly passes out to the open teammate for a good shot.”
Stuffing the stat sheet offensively and defensively is only part of Johnson’s team responsibilities. As a team captain, Johnson has also become a veteran presence, providing advice or help to some of his younger teammates.
“AJ is an excellent role model for our two first-year players, Jeevin Sandhu and Austin Dewitz,” Newhall said. “He always puts the team first and could care less about personal statistics.”
Off the court, Johnson continues to help out some of his younger teammates in areas outside of basketball. Since he is on the pre-med track, he has helped advise fellow students on the class by highlighting the best classes to take and recommending professors.
For the future, Johnson has his sights set on medical school, but before moving on he plans to take a few years off to try and publish his results in the research lab he works in at UCLA.
While Johnson has high goals for the future both academically and professionally, he also has big plans for the remainder of the season and for his senior year campaign.
Winning the remaining games on their schedule would put the Tigers over .500 in conference play and would potentially be enough for a decent seed in the SCIAC Tournament, in addition to ending the season on a high note for the graduating seniors.
As for his senior season, Johnson wants more than just a postseason bid.
“I hope to continue to improve as a player and stay healthy,” Johnson said. “I want to win a SCIAC championship because it has been a goal my teammates and I have had ever since we started playing here.”
Johnson and the rest of the Occidental men’s basketball team will look to pull their overall record above .500 tonight at 7:30 p.m. against the University of Redlands in Rush Gymnasium.
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