Originally posted on Detroit News
Ypsilanti — There’s not much Jaylen Johnson can’t do on a basketball court. He can rebound, pass, dribble, defend, and the best parts of his game are his alley-oop dunks and his shot-blocking ability.
A 6-9 post player, Johnson will be a senior at Ypsilanti High in the fall and is considered one of the top players in the state. He’s received scholarship offers from Michigan State, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Oregon, Southern California, Iowa, Iowa State, North Carolina State, Texas, Virginia Commonwealth, and the list goes on. Johnson has received so many scholarship offers he can’t remember them all.
Despite all of the accolades and prestigious tournaments he has attended and been invited to, Johnson is not consumed by the sport, and it does not define him. On his list of priorities basketball is third.
God is first in his life, his family is second.
Being a good person, a good citizen and true to his spiritual well-being are what’s important in Johnson’s life.
Much of his attitude and outlook toward life can be traced to his mother, Janetta Johnson. She’s his rock, his biggest supporter and often his most vocal critic.
A single mother of two teenage boys, Johnson said the credit and responsibility for her children’s upbringing is shared. There’s their pastor, Don Shelby, at Burning Bush Church in Ypsilanti. And there’s Isaac Lockhart, Jaylen’s godfather. Ypsilanti coach Steve Brooks is also counted among his support group as are the coaches for his AAU team, Dorian’s Pride, and Janetta’s auntie, Phyllis Bridges.
Lawrence is Johnson’s other son. He’s 6-3, started on the freshmen team last season and is entering his sophomore year at Ypsilanti.
“It’s not easy (raising two boys),” Janetta said. “I tell them, you’re just in high school. Do your best. Listen to your coaches.
“Jaylen loves the game. He’s a kid. He’s just a baby. He’s more of a funny kid, laughing and trying to make others laugh. His personality … he just loves people. As far as basketball, he’s a team player. He’s so concerned about winning. He doesn’t have a big head. I’ve trusted that God has helped him. His destiny is in God’s hands.”
Johnson, who will turn 17 on Aug. 7, is destined to play college basketball, but it’s unlikely he’ll make a decision anytime soon.
He’s participating in team camps, and the AAU season starts up again next month. Johnson did well at the Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, Calif., on June 1-3. Johnson, the only Michigan participant, received the Mario Elie Award (as the pleasant surprise) while Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) was named Most Outstanding Player.
“I’m still weighing my options,” he said. “I’m not worrying about it. I want to earn my playing time wherever I go.
“Coach Brooks is real hard on us. He trains you like you’re in college. He’ll chew you out no matter who you are. He said college coaches don’t put up with that stuff.”
As a former college player, Janetta Johnson coaches her son on the ins and outs of recruiting. Johnson played at Ann Arbor Huron and Kaskaskia Junior College (Ill.) before signing with Wisconsin.
“It’s about his development,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how successful the program is. We want to decide before the start of the season. It’ll be Pastor Shelby, Brooks, his God-dad, me and his AAU coaches. I’m praying about it. I’ll give my take after everyone has their opinion. Then it’ll be Jaylen’s choice.
“I passed the torch to coach Brooks when I brought him here,” Janetta said. “After (high school) we’ll take it out of coach Brooks’ hands and give it to the college coach.”
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