Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
After Difficult Upbringing, Karron Johnson Settles in and Picks Oklahoma State
Karron Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound power forward from Mount Zion Academy in North Carolina who has been compared to Kenyon Martin, committed to Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford on Wednesday night.
“It’s true,” said James Shange Black. Black and his wife are mentors who live with Johnson in Raleigh, N.C. “He just did it last night.”
Johnson had developed a relationship with Oklahoma State assistant Butch Pierre when Pierre was at LSU and the relationship carried over. He committed after taking a visit to Oklahoma State last weekend.
“Coach Pierre was recruiting him at LSU and he always kept in contact with Karron and Karron had a great relationship and was always comfortable with him,” Black said.
“We also feel at Oklahoma State that he can come in and pull off the same thing as Michael Beasley at Kansas State. He can shoot the 3. He can handle. He wouldn’t be forced to just play the four. He can play the wing, too. Seton Hall was recruiting him as a four and Karron wanted the option to bring the ball up and create more.”
Johnson, a native of Richmond, Va. who went to school in Brooklyn for several years, chose the Cowboys over Seton Hall, UAB and Memphis.
“It really came down to Seton Hall, UAB and Memphis,” Black said. “We were mainly considering those three. [UAB coach] Dusty May was reaching out to me and talking to me. He was trying to set up a visit for him to come there.”
Black said there was a point after the Las Vegas events in July when Johnson very nearly committed to Seton Hall because of his close relationship with the coaches. Black also has a close relationship with Seton Hall assistant Derm Player.
“That was right after the Vegas trip,” Black said. “It just was getting our feet wet and we wanted to leave our options and wanted to make sure we were making the right decision. We wanted look to at other options and just don’t limit himself to one. We wanted a better fit.
“I’ve known Coach Derm for many years,” Black said. “My cousin [Darryl Hill] played for St. John’s. Karron loves Coach Derm and Bobby Gonzalez and Scott Adubato but it just felt like it was a better fit as a freshman at Oklahoma State and he has a possibility of starting there.
“We have a lot of love for Seton Hall. It was nothing against those guys at all. It really boiled down to that he really wanted to go to Seton Hall but it was a better situation for him in the [Big 12] Conference.”
James said Johnson’s father was murdered in Richmond when Johnson 9 or 10, and that his mother, Karen Johnson, struggles with a liver disease. Johnson also has a younger brother named Travis.
“His father was murdered,” Black said. “His mother can barely walk from one block to another; she has to stop and struggle. His mother is trying to make ends meet. It’s been rough with Karron.”
Johnson now lives with Black and his wife in Raleigh and they are working on teaching him and developing his character.
“A lot of other coaches say he’s the happiest they’ve ever seen him,” Black said. “That goes to show me that all the work me and Karron’s mother are doing is working. He’s trying. When someone messes up, they are so quick to jump on him.”
Black knows that Johnson has dealt with anger management issues in the past, but says he is getting past those.
“We’re trying to groom him to be a young man,” Black said. “His attitude is his edge. I feel in my heart Karron is more hungry. Karron is in the gym every day working, working.”
As for Johnson’s academic status, Black said he was about to take the SAT and was on pace to be qualified.
“Karron is set to be qualified,” he said. “He’s about to take the SAT. He’s in the classroom every day taking care of business. He’s doing tutoring and really putting in the effort.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.