on March 10, 2017 9:02 AM, updated March 10, 2017 10:02 AM
Jamal Johnson plans to arrive at the University of Memphis ready to play – eager to contribute as a true freshman.
“Play as hard as you can because that way, good things will happen,” said Johnson, a Memphis signee. “Stay focused. Be the best person and player you can be.”
But not before he represents Spain Park at least one more time in high school basketball. On March 17, Johnson will participate in the 27th Alabama-Mississippi All-Star games, a doubleheader featuring some of the best girls and boys basketball talent in both states.
Johnson, the son of former Alabama and NBA standout Buck Johnson and a Class 7A All-State candidate, ended his senior season at Spain Park with a Feb. 9 loss to Huffman in the Class 7A, Area 6 Tournament. During the season, Johnson averaged 24.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
Johnson faced plenty of challenges this season without former Spain Park teammate Austin Wiley on the roster. Wiley left the school last summer, enrolled at a prep school and by the winter, enrolled early at Auburn, joining the men’s basketball team.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Johnson and Spain Park’s young team: consistent playing.
On Jan. 17, Johnson scored 31 points with 12 rebounds and three assists to lead Spain Park to a 66-62 victory at Class 7A No. 1-ranked Mountain Brook, which ended the 2016-17 as 7A champions. Spain Park also earned wins against Huffman, a regional finalist, and Hoover, also a regional finalist.
Problem was, Spain Park did not always play at this level.
“Some games, we would just fall back down to (playing like) an average team,” he said. “But some games, the Hoover game or some game everybody knows is going to be hype, we would come up for it. But it wasn’t like that every game.”
It’s a lesson Johnson hopes will improve his play on the next level, as well as assist younger Spain Park players in the future.
Play hard. All the time.
Here’s a task Johnson has already learned: How to be a leader. He spent his senior season at Spain Park not only showing teammates how to navigate on the court, but telling them. It was a new challenge for Johnson, who one season ago, shared the spotlight with Wiley.
And now, he’s preparing to don a college basketball jersey. But not before at least one last high school basketball tip-off.