Bulldog gets national recognition
Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012
By Tray Mason
King’s Fork’s basketball program is no stranger to producing elite players.
Three NCAA Divison I athletes have come from the school during its short history, including two players in the Big East.
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Senior Zach Johnson continues the Bulldogs’ standard of excellence, but with an interesting twist.
Johnson has signed to play at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and people have noticed.
He was recently featured in ESPNHS Magazine’s “18 Under 18” feature, which honors 18 male athletes for doing outstanding things on and off the court.
Johnson says he found out about the article when his friend posted the link on his Facebook page, and a notification came to his phone.
“I actually found out when I was in class,” said Johnson, “I didn’t know anything about it, and when I talked to Coach, he said he wanted me to find out by myself.”
The article came about after Johnson was featured in a separate article for ESPN, which focused on the differences of high school athletes choosing U.S. service academies versus the traditional four-year institution.
Johnson was one of just two basketball players featured; the other was the top junior prospect in the nation, Jabari Parker.
The ESPN story highlights Johnson’s acceptance into the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program, a prestigious honor that involves high school juniors conducting NASA-related research through online modules.
“I’ve always been intrigued with NASA and space,” Johnson said. “It was tough, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Johnson will carry a 3.2 GPA with him to West Point, where he plans to study aerospace engineering. Even without a tough major, he will be taking on more than the average college student.
Many college athletes describe playing a college sport as having a job. At West Point Johnson will balance schoolwork, basketball, and the requirements of being a cadet at the school.
He fielded a slew of offers from other schools, including Winthrop, Jacksonville, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis and many more Division II schools.
“Zach has a great family unit that looks out for him,” KF head coach Josh Worrell said. “They did the right thing in visits with schools and seeing what the benefits were. I think it is the best situation for Zach.”
Although he played the center position for King’s Fork, at 6’5” he is undersized to play that position at the Division I level, and he plans to move to the small forward position.
“I’m thankful that I got to play as a big man in high school, so now I can play any position,” Johnson said. “After practice I always work on my guard skills, but having a background as a big man will help a lot.”
Johnson averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds in his senior season for the Bulldogs, in which he was the anchor for a team that made it to the semifinal round of the Eastern Regional Tournament, further than any other team in the Southeastern District.
“I want to be remembered for my hard work, but also my love for all different types of people and having a broad group of friends,” said Johnson, “not just basketball, because that’s not the main thing in life.”
The “18 Under 18” feature appears in the March 2011 edition of ESPNHS Magazine, available on newsstands now. Visit ESPNHS.com for the Internet version of the story, complete with video from some of King’s Fork’s games.