Juco transfer Johnson hopes to take reins with Braves’ offense

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; Man, was Trey Johnson being stretched.

Having just graduated high school, the 6-4 athlete had his options &045; professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals or college basketball?

He chose the latter.

Email newsletter signup

Then a year later it came up again &045; stay at junior college and play another year of baseball or transfer to either Jackson State or Alcorn State?

Fortunately for the Braves, he chose the latter again and is battling for the starting point guard position this season.

&uot;I’ve been playing baseball basically since I was born,&uot; said Johnson, drafted out of high school by the Royals in the 30th round. &uot;Baseball is my first love. When I was young, I was better in baseball than I was in basketball. As I got older, it kind of evened out.

&uot;A lot of my family went to Alcorn, and that’s pretty much what got me here. I grew up around Alcorn, but I grew up a Jackson State fan. One side is Jackson State, and one side is Alcorn.&uot;

But it’s not a stretch to place the Murrah graduate in the point guard slot for the Braves after transferring in from Northeast Community College. He’s getting the bulk of the minutes now while sharing the duties with 6-8 Dion Callans at the point to solidify the team’s biggest weakness from a year ago.

The Braves finished last season averaging 18.5 turnovers a game to their opponents’ 16.7, and that’s after an improved second half following a dismal start. But Johnson and Callans are helping to solidify the position heading into Saturday’s home matchup against Jacksonville State.

&uot;It’s been a key position this year,&uot; ASU head coach Sam West said. &uot;I saw Trey play in junior college at Northeast. He was playing the point guard position in junior college. When I saw him in high school, he was a power forward. To see how he adjusted from power forward to point guard in less than a year, that really got my attention.&uot;

Turnovers have still nagged at the Braves so far in their 0-5 start to the current season, including the 27 in Saturday’s 56-49 loss at Stephen F. Austin. In the game before it, the Braves had 17 in an 84-49 loss at Arkansas-Little Rock.

&uot;At first I had to get used to playing with everybody and knowing what you were going to do,&uot; said Johnson, who had 13 points and five assists at SFA. &uot;We’re working real hard and getting to know each other a little bit better. At Northeast I was pretty much the scorer and the point. I’ve got to wait for the pass to come to me instead of shooting like I did at Northeast.&uot;

The sooner the former shooting guard who doubled as the point can handle the role well, the better off the Braves will be. It’s a different style the Braves are running under West than under longtime head coach Davey L. Whitney, and there is still some adjustment for Callans, despite being a returner.

&uot;Nobody has really adjusted to it like I thought they would at this time of the year,&uot; West said. &uot;But they’re coming. It’s just taking a little longer than I expected. I think all of them right now are getting adjusted to the system we’re trying to put in. Our last (game) we really turned the ball over an awful lot, but I really think it’s because the young men were trying too hard to make things happen. What we really need to do is take those turnovers and turn them into attempts.&uot;

Johnson, however, has displayed the poise at times needed to man the position while &045; just as important &045; playing strong defense on the other end of the floor.

Callans, who at 6-8 will present matchup problems for just about everyone in the country, can provide relief and a little compassion for the frustrations that come with the job.

&uot;This is my first time playing (point) at the collegiate level,&uot; Callans said. &uot;It’s just about getting comfortable with the position. Now you’ve got to create shots for the other players. It’s kind of hard to turn it around, but I think by the time we get to the SWAC we’ll be fine.

&uot;Trey’s like me &045; he’s intense and very easy to get along with. He’s a great addition to the team. He’s going to create some matchup problems in the SWAC, too. There’s a lot of short (guards) in the league.&uot;

At least the Braves have momentum from that loss to the Lumberjacks Saturday after dropping the first game with them by 17 in Lorman. That was mainly due to the defense, in spite of the number of turnovers that wasn’t pretty to look at.

&uot;Too many turnovers,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;But we made some stops that game. We’re starting to know each other a lot more. That’s starting to help us out a lot. It’s chemistry, really. When we knew everybody, everything will work itself out.&uot;

There some things to build on from that game heading into Saturday’s bout with the Gamecocks, in their first season of the Ohio Valley Conference after a handful of years competing in the Atlantic Sun.

The Gamecocks beat Alcorn twice last year.

&uot;We went (to SFA) with the attitude we could beat them,&uot; West said. &uot;We did a great job of playing defense on them. But our inability right now to turn over to man-to-man defense is our Achilles heel right now.&uot;