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Thomson High's Richard Johnson signs to play college basketball at Allen University

Richard Johnson couldn't be happier these days. And there are a number of reasons why.

This weekend, the 17-year-old Johnson will be attending the annual junior-senior prom at Thomson High School. And in just a few weeks, the senior is set to graduate.

All that said, he's just been awarded a basketball scholarship to play on the college level at Allen University in Columbia, S.C. next season. Johnson's prep coach, Michael Thomas, made the announcement during a press conference in the school's media center last Thursday. Allen University is a four-year school.

"I'm real excited and I'm looking forward to playing college basketball," said Johnson, the son of Richard Johnson, Sr., of Augusta, and Dorian and Jimmy Roberts, of Thomson.

Coach Thomas is equally excited for one of his former star players.

"He's a real deserving young man," said Coach Thomas. "He's not a novelty. He can really play. He's a pure basketball player, who handles the ball well and shoots well, too."

The 5-8 Johnson may have looked short at first glance, but his character and abilities on the basketball court made him a giant on the Bulldogs' team.

"He always played like he was a lot taller," said Coach Thomas, who has now helped more than 75 former players make it to the next level of basketball. "I always admired his character, too. That's a testament of his rearing by his parents and grandparents. They taught him the right things about life and how to act around others."

When players like Johnson are able to make it to the next level, said Coach Thomas, "I feel like it's a mission accomplished."

Johnson averaged 17.4 points per game - five of those baskets coming from the three-point range. He also averaged four steals per game.

A total of 78 percent of his shots were from the three-point distance.

Johnson said he began taking a liking to shooting three-pointers when he was between the ages of 5 and 6.

"My Dad taught me how to shoot those kinds of baskets," recalled Johnson. "Chuck Graham also taught me a lot about that shot at the Boys and Girls Club."

Coach Thomas said opponents had a difficult time defending Johnson, who also was noted for his quickness.

"Most of the teams in the region played a box and one against him and he was still able to get his shot off without disrupting the offense," said Coach Thomas. "He is a very patient player who has great court awareness."

Johnson was named to First Team All-Region.

In addition to playing basketball at Thomson High for four years - his senior year being the only year that he actually started - Johnson also serves as a Company Commander in the school's Navy JROTC program.

Johnson plans to study nursing - a field whose roots run deep in his family. His mother is an LPN at Augusta Medical State Prison, while his grandmother, Tereatha Nwankwo, of Thomson, is a registered nurse at McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson.

"I'd like to be a registered nurse someday," said Johnson.

Web posted on Thursday, April 23, 2009

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