Niagara Gazette

February 22, 2013

Johnson takes center stage at NCCC

By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A New York City point guard is leading the Niagara County Community College men's basketball team to its best season in decades, not only with his skills but also with his personality.

Brooklyn-born Isaiah Johnson is averaging 14.6 points, 4.3 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals for an NCCC team that has won 11 of 13 games since the first of the year and has yet to lose a home game this season.

The Thunderwolves (20-7) host nationally-ranked Monroe Community College at 3 p.m. today and can claim a share of the Western New York Athletic Conference championship with a win.

"Isaiah is the catalyst," NCCC coach Bill Beilein said. "He's the guy that leads us defensively. He sets the tone for us offensively. And you can always trust that he's going to come through."

Johnson won over Beilein in his very first workout and has been NCCC's point guard since the start of his freshman season, when he was a scrawny 17-year-old.

"The best way to describe Isaiah is that he is a type A personality," Beilein said. "That's the way he competes on the court and that's the way he attacks his academics.

"When we got him up here on a visit, we knew he was going to be a stud on this level. He just competed right away. We had an open gym and there was one particular kid who was talking trash. Isaiah didn't talk back to him, he just went to work."

Johnson said he picked NCCC over Adelphi because he bonded with Beilein on his visit.

"I felt a sense that I wouldn't only be a basketball player here, I'd be part of a family," he said.

In the last year, the 5-foot-11 Johnson has bulked up to 185 pounds, and combined with his long arms and aggressive playing style, he has answered the doubts about whether he was big enough to be a scholarship-level point guard.

Johnson has been fielding Division II offers all year, but is still hoping to get a Division I opportunity.

"I'm going to keep working and seeing if I can get the maximum out of it, which is Division I" he said. "That's every kid's dream. But if I have to go Division II, that's no problem."