Originally Posted Online: March 24, 2013, 9:05 pm
Last Updated: March 24, 2013, 11:47 pm

Erie's Johnston shooting for big-school respect

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By Steve Tappa, stappa@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Erie senior Jacob Johnston will use tonight's Iowa-Illinois Senior Showcase as an opportunity to show several coaches who are recruiting him what they'll be getting.

Jacob Johnston gets a dress rehearsal tonight at a possible college home playing for a potential college coach.

So the Erie All-Stater knows the Iowa-Illinois Senior All-Star Basketball Showcase qualifies as more than a final bow.

However, the only small-school boy invited to participate in the 14th annual affair still hopes to show he's deserving of a second act at the next level.

"A lot of (Class) 3A and 4A kids think there's no good players in 1A or 2A, but I'd like to be the latest to prove them wrong," Johnston said ahead of the boys' and girls' contests at Augustana College's Carver P.E. Center.

"A lot of people think, 'Yeah, he put up good numbers, but that was against 1A kids, so it's not that impressive.' To a point that's true. It is easier in 1A, because there's just not as many great players each night. But really, it doesn't matter where you're from. It matters if you can play."

Several small-college coaches agree Johnston certainly can do that.

Today's event host is joined by Loras and Cornell (Iowa) among the Division III schools bidding for the 6-foot-4 shooter's services. Junior colleges such as Illinois Central and Lincoln also are pursuing the Three Rivers Conference Player of the Year.

Black Hawk men's coach Darren Bizarri, the Illinois boys' coach, also gets a front-row seat to review Johnston's ability to hang with the big boys.

"I'm not going to be the best player out there, but I feel like I belong,'' Johnston said. "There's no pressure. There will be college coaches watching, but I've had college coaches at my games this season. I know I will be nervous, but if you're not, you probably don't care."

While small-school All-Staters often are among the best players on the floor in the girls' game, the area boys' track record has been a bit spotty, with some overwhelmed by the bigger environment and better competition.

However, Johnston has prior experience to help feed his quiet confidence, participating in last weekend's Rockford-area All-Star Senior Classic.

"I always want to win, but all-star games are fun, too,'' said Johnston, an Associated Press second-team All-State selection. "It's a blast to go up and down the court and play with a bunch of great players you played against or you've heard so much about.There's a lot of free-styling. I prefer to get my shots off of sets, but I adjusted. I'll take more jumpers than drive to the hoop. Not that I can't get there, but it's not as easy as during the season, because these kids are bigger and stronger.''

Johnston scored five points last weekend, nailing an NBA 3-pointer.

"I knew the (NBA 3-point line) was longer, but I didn't realize it was that long," said Johnston, who participated in the 3-Point Showdown at state. "A lot of kids air-balled their shots, so I was happy to nail one."

But even before that 3, Johnston had expanded his horizons, despite not graduating to varsity basketball until his junior season.

"If you're good, most small-school kids play varsity as a freshman or sophomore, but I didn't even dress. I was just too scrawny," said Johnston. "But I've gotten bigger and stronger and keep getting better. We all have big dreams. Now, the NBA's a little too far off, but I know I have the potential to play in college and that's exciting to think about."


Senior Showcase

When & where: Tonight at Augustana College's Carver P.E. Center. The tip-offs are 6 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys), with a 3-point shooting contest for both sexes at halftime of the girls' game, and a slam dunk show at intermission of the boys' game.
Admission: $5.
Notes: Illinois owns cross-river bragging rights in the girls' game 10-3, winning the last 8 straight. ... The Illinois boys won last season for the first time in four years to claim a 7-6 edge in the series. ... The Illinois coaches are Black Hawk's Darren Bizarri (boys) and Gary Karen Boyd (girls). ... The Iowa coaches are Ashford's Oliver Drake (boys) and Amy Egan (girls). ... College rules are used, featuring 20-minute halves and the NCAA shot clock. ... The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus are among the sponsors.
Illinois girls' roster: Alleman: Anne Bohnert, Zoe Kelso; Galesburg: Jessica Lieber; Moline: Morgan Gerard; Prophetstown: Cassie Reiley; Riverdale: Hannah Nimrick; Rock Island: Cairece Allen, Shavonne Brewer, Jacqueline Twing; United Township: Katie Daggett, Jamie VanWatermeulen; Wethersfield: Sarah Hansen.
Illinois boys' roster: Alleman: Adam Hoogerwerf; Erie: Jacob Johnston; Galesburg: Ryan Carl, Travon Diggins; Geneseo: Austin Frank, Jordan Starkey; Moline: Derrick Stabler, Jed Wood; Rock Island: Trae Babers, Raahsaan Brown, Robert Johnson, Brian Richardson.
Iowa girls' roster: Assumption: Kate Fennelly, Morgan Pavlich; Burlington: Courtney Carl, Kelsi Connor, Kya Kimsey; Davenport North: Marissa Bell; North Scott: Anna Boffeli, Emily Sey; Pleasant Valley: Holly Hoelting, Chloe Miller, Lexi Spelhaug, Katelynn Tuttle.
Iowa boys' roster: Assumption: Billy Daniel, Nick Schebler, Matt Vonderhaar; Bettendorf: Ryan Tubbs; Burlington: Justin Randle; Davenport North: Demarcus Davis, Blain Samuelson; Muscatine: Luke Rauenbuehler; North Scott: Creighton Claussen; Pleasant Valley: Kain Artofer, Connor Bryant, A.J. Smith.