Division 2 Underdog Plays On For Sioux Falls Skyforce
UPDATE: Johnson scored 4 points in an exhibition game against the Iowa Energy, but was released by the team on the day rosters to begin the season were finalized.
To take a path as a professional in any field, there is a role for every piece of the puzzle. Thus, there really is no mold for a NBA Development League player.
There are those who are on the cusp of making it. Some are still learning and growing in the craft. Others are trying to capture glory of the past. All love the game of basketball and want to play it as long as they can.
One category is the local tryout who shows up at a team’s gathering to make an impression. Much like an actor who auditions for a role in a play, the player does his edition of a casting call and waits for a call back.
The Sioux Falls Skyforce selected five of those who attended a tryout session and invited them to training camp. There is only one left. Meet Grant Johnson, a rookie who recently completed his collegiate playing for Winona State University of the Northern Sun Conference.
The Warriors are a familiar bunch to those who follow the college game in Sioux Falls as Augustana and the University of Sioux Falls hail from the same conference. Winona State also has a winning history as a program advancing to the Elite 8 last season and winning a Division 2 National Championships in 2006 and 2008 plus a winning streak of 57 games.
Johnson feels rock solid in his ability to play professional basketball. “I do think that I belong here. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’m planning to stay.” It’s standard fare for the Wisconsin native as throughout his basketball career he has constantly had to prove himself to get court time.
An article from the Winona Daily News chronicles Johnson’s path during high school as he went from a bit player at Tremper High School in Kenosha to all-state caliber after transferring to Kenosha Christian Life. A year at community college gave way to a stint at University of Wisconsin-Parkside then finishing his college career at Winona State. You may read the article here.
It was in the transfer to Winona State where an “administrative oversight” led to Johnson being barred from playing a good portion of his Junior season. Player and coaches were not at fault. Nonetheless, Johnson was back on the bench and his team nullified 13 Northern Sun Conference games as a result.
Johnson states that those events, “…mends you into the person who you actually are. You become stronger especially mentally. You get to this (professional) level and you have to be mentally strong. Things I’ve been though in my life I think have helped me.”
Considering his role in the professional ranks, Johnson says it was never a goal to play in Sioux Falls even though he has tangential relationship with the college game. “When my senior season was up, I didn’t imagine myself being here. There’s a lot of things I thought were going to happen and then I tried out for Sioux Falls when I was down in Miami. It happened to be that I was invited to training camp.”
As long as the door to the gym is open, he’s planning to stay.