At 6’10″ and 260 pounds, Dakari Johnson can’t play in the shadow of many people, but behind St. Patrick’s star player Michael Gilchrist, he was able to have a relatively smooth and productive freshman season, incrementally improving month by month. The rising sophomore ultimately averaged nine rebounds and three blocks per game, while playing against elite-level high school competition, starting six games for USA Today’s number two high school team in the country. Johnson was named ESPN Rise’s National Freshman of the Year for his significant contributions to the national power Celtics.
His talent and height are not necessarily an unexpected blessing. His mother, Makini Campbell, is 6’5″ and played college basketball at Long Island University, while his father, Thomas Johnson is 6’10″ and played for St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.
This wasn’t Dakari’s first experience playing varsity basketball. At Sayre Middle School, he played varsity basketball in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dakari and his mother had moved for a few years. This year, the Brooklyn native achieved a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom, while his mother was hired at St. Patrick’s as an English teacher, when a position became available during the school year.
In a critical match-up against eventual National Prep champion St. Thomas More and their star center 6’11″ Andre Drummond, the Brooklyn freshman stepped up his game, scoring twelve points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 73-61 win. After playing a vital role on his 26-1 Celtics team, the fifteen year-old manned the middle for a Gauchos AAU team in desperate need of an interior presence. Johnson will, however, be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a sprained ankle suffered during the LeBron James Skills Academy, where he was one of the youngest participants.
In June, the 2014 prospect competed as part of the USA Basketball’s Developmental National Team in Colorado Springs. Despite ultimately not getting selected for this year’s 16U team, Coach Showalter had very complimentary things to say about Dakari’s long-term potential and future with USA Basketball. One big decision on the immediate horizon for Johnson is whether he will return to St. Patrick’s following the departure of long-time Celtics head coach, Kevin Boyle, who left to take a similar but more financially lucrative position with Montverde Academy in Florida.
Recently, Dakari, a friendly and precocious young man, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation about his USA Basketball experience, Kyrie Irving, and embracing his role as a low-post big man.
Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself away from the court?
Away from the court? Oh, I’m just a funny person who likes to just hang out with my friends and just chill.
What about your year at St. Patrick’s and where are you going from here?
My year at St. Patrick’s was very good. I was the only freshman on my team.
Did you feel like a rock star with all of the attention?
(laughs) No, I didn’t feel like a rock star, but I just had to play a role and you really feel like you develop month by month. Yeah, I think I came along at St. Pat’s. Since we played in competition, I tried to raise my level of play. I think it really got me better.
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