Gopher recruit’s Senior Night not quite what he’d expected

Jarvis Johnson with Coach Richard Pitino and his parents on Senior Night //
Photo courtesy of U of M

Senior Night for a particular sport season’s final home game, whether high school or college, is never void of emotion. Only the player’s and the team’s actual last game of the season is more emotional because of its finality. 

Jarvis Johnson is a Minneapolis native and a 2015 De La Salle High School graduate. He was highly recruited, the first state recruit signed to play basketball for Richard Pitino at the University of Minnesota, and he was expected to make a meaningful contribution to the Gophers. 

The 6’-1” guard, however, never wore his number 12 on the court during his four years at the U. Johnson, a member of four straight high school basketball championships in as many tries, hasn’t scored a point since leaving high school. 

I just want to go back to the community and connect with the youth.

He was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in eighth grade, a heart condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are fewer than 200,000 U.S. cases of HCM per year; the condition can last for years or be lifelong, and it is treatable but cannot be cured.

He nonetheless played sports all through high school, but once on campus, the Gopher doctors would not medically clear him to play despite the fact that other schools have cleared players with HCM.

Instead of transferring, which was once rumored, Johnson instead remained at Minnesota. His basketball scholarship stayed intact, and he will graduate this spring with a youth studies degree. His became a non-playing Gopher career that he hadn’t planned or imagined.

While his fellow seniors got applauded from the Barn crowd for their on-court exploits before the March 5 Senior Night home finale, Johnson likewise drew applause and went back to his usual courtside bench seat to watch the action, the same spot he had held for four seasons. 

“I tried to be a role model for the team, to be there whether winning or losing,” Johnson told me a few days before Senior Night. The Gophers play this week in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago in hopes of earning more playing time this month.

Johnson admitted it wasn’t easy sitting and watching, but he publicly stayed positive and upbeat. “I just do my role.”

With his degree, Johnson said, “I just want to go back to the community and connect with the youth.” He said that he hasn’t yet ruled out playing hoops again and going back to school for an advanced degree.

The Augsburg surprise

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) post-season awards were announced last month after a historic basketball season where Augsburg for the first time was nationally ranked and finished second in both the regular season and league playoffs. Coach Ted Riverso was named MIAC Coach of the Year, his first as Auggies coach.

Auggies junior guard Aiza Wilson was named the league’s sixth Woman of the Year. The Minneapolis native played in all 27 games, finishing second in team scoring and fifth in three-point shooting for Augsburg. Teammates Tamera McLenore and Arianna Jones both made all-MIAC, and Carlee Kebow made the All-Sportsmanship Team.

K’Lynn Lewis, a freshman from St. Paul, made MIAC Co-Rookie of the Year. She started 23 of 25 games for St. Olaf and was 10th in the league in points. She and fellow first-year player Chan’el Anderson-Manning (Hamline), also of St. Paul, were among the Honorable Mention All-MIAC. Anderson-Manning also made the league’s All First-Year Team.