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Johnson playing key role for Wonder Boys

by Tony Burns | January 25, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.

El Dorado’s BJ Johnson revealed some advice he received from his grandmother.

“She tells me, ‘Stay a child as long as you can,’” Johnson said.

Those wise words have stuck with Johnson, who is a redshirt sophomore on Arkansas Tech’s men’s basketball team.

Johnson graduated from El Dorado in 2019 and signed to play at Northeastern State in Oklahoma. He redshirted and then transferred to Arkansas Tech.

Currently in his third season with the Wonder Boys, he’s averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game off the bench.

“My role, really I just play defense and get rebounds, hit shots that I need to hit. I think I’m doing good,” he said. “This year, I’m starting to score a little bit more.”

The 6-foot-4 guard/forward started as a sophomore for the Wildcats’ team with Daniel Gafford and Czar Perry that lost in the state championship game. He’s used to playing a supporting role.

“The thing I learned coming to college, everybody was the man in high school. Everybody was good. So when I came to college, I had to change my game for the system. I changed so we can win. I’m not scoring like I did when I was in high school but I’m still playing a lot. It’s a different role,” he said, adding it wasn’t a difficult transition.

“It was kind of easy. I already did that my sophomore year at El Dorado. My junior and senior year, that’s when I started scoring. When I came to Arkansas Tech, it kind of went back to my sophomore year in high school, so I was kind of used to it. I understood.”

Johnson has matured on and off the court. Under Coach Gary Simmons at El Dorado, he played in a run-and-gun offense. At Arkansas Tech, shot selection is more important.

“Knowing when and what shots to take - good shots from bad shots. Some shots, like, say in high school you just go down and shoot the ball. In college, it’s like you’ve got to run sets and score out of the sets, read the defense and stuff,” said Johnson, who was more prepared than most for the college skill level.

“It’s not too many guards in our league as quick as Czar. That’s why I’m prepared defensive-wise. Like Czar, he’s real fast. That’s how I see it. It’s not too many Czar Perry’s around so I’m not too worried.”

Off the court, he’s grown up, too.

“I used to be shy. That’s changed a lot since I got to college. You’ve got to meet new people and make new friends. I guess I’ve started opening up a little more.”

Johnson said he still has three years of eligibility left if he wants to use them. He’s already thinking about jobs for after college. Coaching could be a possibility.

“I’ve changed my major three times. At first it was Business. Then I changed it to Health & Physical Education. Now, I’m doing Professional Studies,” he said. “I think I’ve pretty much got it, now. I’ve only got 21 hours left so I’m going to stick with this major.”

As for his remaining eligibility, Johnson said he’s still making that decision.

“I’m undecided, right now. The coaches told me they’ll pay for it if I wanted to come back. They want me to come back. But, I’m not sure, really.”

The Wonder Boys are 11-6 overall and 9-2 in conference after Monday’s 87-75 win over Harding. He said he likes Arkansas Tech and could see himself hanging around for awhile. The deciding factor, he said, will be his teammates.

“Most of my teammates are sophomores so if we just stick together. We’re still young but we’re starting to get the hang of the system. If everybody sticks together, I’ll come back,” said Johnson. 

His grandmother’s advice could factor in his future, too. He’s no longer a child but a grown man. But, the opportunity to play a kid’s game doesn’t last forever.

“I’m just enjoying it, enjoying all the moments, cherishing every moment. You never know when it will be your last day playing. I just try to give it my all every time I play.”


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