Every basketball lifer has their own unique journey. Basketball Journeys focuses on capturing and unpacking the stories of players, coaches, and lifers who have experienced the impact of their dedication to the game over time.
Our founder Martin Soaries talked with our brother Eric Johnson, Associate Head Coach at Georgetown Preparatory School and Assistant Coach for the DC Blue Devils 17U UAA.
Martin: My boy! Thanks for taking the time. First, give me your earliest basketball memory and how you remember falling in love with the game.
EJ: My first memory started at a young age, as a youngster I spent a lot of time in North Carolina over the summer visiting family, and my older cousins used to hoop so hard outside on a half court playing 3 on 3 and 4 on 4, and I used to sit there in the sweltering heat and watch those guys go at it. Also growing up a Tar Heels fan I used to love watching Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Antawn Jamison and when I was 14 I went to the UNC camp and got to hoop alongside Rashad Mccants, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Jawad Williams and Sean May. After that experience, I realized that this game is something that I will always love.
Martin: You’re one of my peers who I consider a true basketball lifer. What do you enjoy most about being a young coach?
EJ: For me coaching is about teaching, and being able to relate to the players. It wasn’t long ago that I was in the same spot as a lot of these kids. I enjoy everything about coaching, but the best thing is watching the hard work that you put in translate to the game. On the high school team and AAU team that I coach we have a ton of guys who work hard and to see it translate into the games is one of the best moments in coaching.
Martin: You’re extremely familiar with the hoops culture in the DMV area. Describe it to me.
EJ: The DMV hoop culture is like a big brotherhood. I know so many people through basketball and it always brings everyone back together. The DMV is connected by two states and the nation’s capital, and if you are good enough nine times out of ten you will cross paths with some of the best players in the area. There is so much talent in this area and for all the guys that went division 1 and pro, there are just as many who didn’t make it that are STILL here hooping and putting in work. In the DMV the game of basketball is taken very seriously. A lot of trash talk is involved but at the end of the day the DMV has a ton of talent and they all respect each other.
Martin: How have you grown as a student of the game?
The biggest thing that has helped with my growth is being around long time veterans of the game. I’ve spent a lot of time at coach’s clinics, working with different coaches in the area, and just watching film to get a better understanding of the game. I’ve worked camps, clinics, Under Armour events and many more local basketball events that have helped me learn so much about the game of basketball and the business side of it as well.
Martin: The game has changed so much even in our lifetime. What do you enjoy about how the game is evolving?
EJ: I think there are pros and cons. The cons are the fundamentals are down, there are a ton of athletic players but some don’t actually know HOW to play the game. After being on the UA Circuit this summer I’ve seen some of the higher ranked players in the country and while they have a ton of potential their IQ’s are low. BUT with that being said I love the fact that the game is covered by so many different people now. Back in the day, the writers covered everything and your name traveled by word of mouth, but today if I want to see any kid who is in the top 150 I can pull it up on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. I like the growth of the game and if you add the old school fundamentals/toughness back it’ll be even better.
Martin: Name some of the best players you’ve played with and against.
EJ: Markel Starks, Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, Donte Green, the Morris Twins, Bill Walker, CJ Garner.
Martin: To you, what makes basketball the best game?
EJ: I love games where everyone is competing and playing hard. Most people like to see a lot of offense which is great but I love to see good offense, good defense, and team basketball. I like the way the Spurs, Warriors, and Wizards play.
Where can people find you online or on social media?