Bulldog chooses West Point

Published 9:13 pm Monday, November 14, 2011

King’s Fork senior Zach Johnson announced he will attend and play basketball at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. during a ceremony with family, teammates, friends and coaches at King’s Fork on Monday afternoon.

The decision Zach Johnson formally made on Monday in King’s Fork’s library, alongside family, friends, teachers and coaches says all anyone needs to know about his academic work, discipline and maturity. Johnson’s ability on the basketball court ranks somewhere in that list as well.

Johnson, a 6-foot-5 senior forward for the Bulldogs, committed to a scholarship to be admitted into and play basketball at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.

“I have a lot of family in the military, so I’ve always had a great feeling about serving the country,” Johnson said a couple minutes after making the paperwork official and taking pictures, some with his family, some with his Bulldogs teammates, and finally with the King’s Fork basketball coaching staff.

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Playing basketball at the Division I level has been Johnson’s dream for years. He had recruiting interest from other schools.

Army was first to contact Johnson. Johnson’s visit to West Point, his introduction to the basketball program and talking over the incredible opportunity, but serious decision, with his family and coaches all went into how Johnson made up his mind.

Even the timing of the first phone call from Army’s coaching staff played a role.

“The first time they contacted me, it was in June or July, I was on my way back from church and I’ve had a good feeling about it ever since,” Johnson said.

“I talked with my family and friends and they said it’s such a great opportunity,” he said.

“Then when I got to go up there and meet the coaches and players there, I came away with a great feeling because there’s such a family bond,” Johnson said. “Plus, they really impressed on me that they want me.”

A year ago heading into his junior season, Johnson had little varsity experience with the Bulldogs. He transferred from Norfolk Academy to KF following his freshman year.

In his first season as a Bulldog, Johnson mostly sat the bench, but for good reason as KF’s frontcourt included seniors Davante Gardner, now in his second season playing at Marquette, and Jay Copeland, now at North Carolina Central after transferring from Ball State.

“To go from tenth grade, when I wasn’t getting much playing time, I wasn’t being recruited at all, now to go to a Division I school that wants me, I just give the glory and honor to God,” Johnson said.

Last season, as the Bulldog center at 6-foot-5 and often as KF’s only real post player on the court, Johnson suddenly proved to be one of the top scorers, rebounders and shot blockers in the Southeastern District.

Along with his multiple double-doubles leading the Bulldogs on the court, Johnson was the only King’s Fork student attending the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program run by the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.

Johnson will report to West Point during the summer for the same training as any Cadet, basketball recruit or not.

“You still have to do all the same things,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be going into a prep school for a year, which will be followed by four remaining years of athletic eligibility.

“It’s a year to get bigger, faster and stronger,” Johnson said.

The year in prep school is equally important academically as well as to adjust to everything a Cadet must do.

“There’s a class, a class just for time management,” Johnson said. “Since everything academically is so rigorous, you have to have that introduction.”

The Black Knights went 10-19 last season and play in the Patriot League.

“I just really like the family bond. They have the vision of winning the NCAA Tournament. They’re building and they have really good players who are maturing and I want to be a part of that vision,” Johnson said.