Malcolm Johnson led his Sickles basketball team on a wild run at the state Final Four way back when he was a freshman. Back then, he thought the trip to Lakeland, home of the state championships, would be a regular thing.
But then really – he never made it back. Sickles has lost in the second round of districts for the past three years. It’s something that has stuck with him.
Starting next year, he’ll be Midshipman Johnson, attending the Naval Academy, first for a year at prep school in Rhode Island, then on to a four-year stint in Annapolis, Md., before fulfilling his five-year military commitment. Johnson comes from a family with a military background, so he knows what he is getting into.
“I know it is going to be tough,” said Johnson who carries a 4.0 grade point average at Sickles. “I like the campus and they really appealed to me as a great school.”
Johnson knows that he might not be the next David Robinson, the former Naval Academy grad that went on to a Hall of Fame career with the San Antonio Spurs, but he is after more than his basketball career.
“At the Naval Academy, I can play Division I basketball, but being in the military will get me a job after I get out, guaranteed,” he said. “Education is important to me and I know this will pay off in the end.”
The Naval Academy stresses science and math and Johnson said he is ready for the challenges. He wants to get into information technology as a specialty, but he also knows that, with the country still at war, he might see some action in a place where he doesn’t want to be.
“I haven’t thought a lot about fighting,” Johnson said. “I will go wherever I am sent.”
After prep school, Johnson knows all about the demands of Plebe Summer in Annapolis. Typically, the Plebes – freshmen at the academy – go through six weeks of a military-style drill camp. At the academy, Johnson’s basketball and class work, which are grueling enough, are the easiest time of the day. It is morning to midnight work, but Johnson said he is already preparing for it.
“I am sure it is the same as boot camp in the Marines,” Johnson said. “I’ll be ready. It will all be worth it at the end. I get to play basketball, go to a great school, and learn a lot.”
Johnson could slack off the last semester. The letters have been signed, everything is taken care of and there are two months left of senior year.
But that isn’t him.
“I’m going to finish strong,” Johnson said. “It isn’t over yet.”