Johnson pushes through setbacks

Christopher Bean, Courier Staff

Sophomore Isaac Johnson was one of the bright spots in a Leatherneck basketball uniform during his freshman year. The 6-foot-5-inch guard from Minneapolis, Minn. was first recruited by the Necks in an AAU tournament in Las Vegas.

When it was time to make his decision he said, “I had two visits left on my schedule, one was at Western Illinois and one was at UW-Green Bay. I took mine to Western Illinois first, and committed here and canceled mine with Green Bay.”

In his freshman year, he averaged 7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of his first year as a Leatherneck.

The first half of the season did not go as planned for Johnson.

“I didn’t start the season the way I wanted to due to small injuries,” said Johnson.

Senior Dalan Ancrum and sophomore Jeremiah Usiosefe were his biggest mentors in helping him settle into the new system. When Usiosefe had his unfortunate season-ending injury, Johnson replaced him in the starting lineup, starting the last 11 of 12 games. It wasn’t unfortunate for Johnson as he made his presence felt right away. In his second start for the Leathernecks, Johnson led the team with 19 points against The Summit League Conference Champions, the Jack Rabbits from South Dakota State. Less than a month later he had his best three-game stretch where he scored 23, 20 and 29 against Purdue-Fort Wayne, South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University; three of the top four teams in the Summit last year. He finished the season with arguably his best game of the year when he put up 17 points and 15 rebounds in a 66-60 loss to SDSU. When Johnson was asked how it felt to put up those numbers, his response was: “It felt good, but we didn’t win, and the main goal is to win.”

Western finished eighth last year, which was dead last. When the Summit League posted their projections, they had Western finishing ninth because the University of North Dakota was added to the League this year. When asked what kind of motivation it gave the team he said,

“It gave us an extra little chip on our shoulder, but we don’t take it personal.” Johnson said.

Johnson is not the only returning sophomore starter on this Leatherneck team. His roommate and close friend, Kobe Webster, started every game last year and received All-Summit Honorable mention. Both created great chemistry over the year and continue to grow on it. Western brings in Freshmen Zion Young and Ben Pile. Johnson and Webster have helped the two freshmen since they were in their shoes last year.

“We talk to them both through everything on and off the court. Whether it’s life skills or how do deal with stuff in class. Or on the court, and how to deal with the coaches,” said Johnson.

Many Leatherneck fan are excited to see these four players together on the court and see what they have in store for the future.

During the offseason, Johnson said he improved on his consistency with shooting the ball, ball handling and worked a lot on his defense. Johnson talked about the teams goals. “Winning obviously is the team goal for sure. Try to win the conference and win the tournament.” Johnson said.

The Leathernecks come into the season with a lot of people not expecting them to do anything. This is mainly because they are a young team with only one senior starter, and they finished eighth last year. They want to become the first team in Western’s history to make the NCAA tournament. With all the young talent they have, they will only grow and get better just like Johnson did in his freshman season.

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