Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryant’

JJ Johnson (John Fisken photo)

   JJ Johnson made his Wolf debut Friday night in a win over Concrete. (John Fisken photo)

Consider it an early Christmas gift.

The Coupeville High School boys’ basketball squad is off to its best start in years, and now Wolf coaches have a new weapon to deploy.

Having moved to town at the end of November, JJ Johnson, who played two years of basketball and football at Oak Harbor High School, was able to join a group of players who include several long-time friends.

Since he didn’t play last year while dealing with an injury, Johnson, a senior, was eligible to play for Coupeville.

After catching up on practices, he made his debut in his new #22 uniform Friday in a win over Concrete.

While he didn’t score during his Wolf debut, he showed a flair for ball-handling and possesses a sweet shot from long-range. Being able to contribute right off the bat was huge.

“The thing I enjoy most about basketball is being on a team and winning,” Johnson said. “Nothing feels better then getting a win.”

He was able to adjust to a new team fairly quickly, largely helped by his out-going personality and previous friendships with fellow Wolves.

“The transition was nice, everyone in this town is so welcoming,” Johnson said. “I’ve known my teammates for awhile.

“I’ve known Wiley (Hesselgrave) since I first moved here because our parents worked together. He’s a Day 1. Risen (Johnson), too, we played AAU ball together when we were younger.”

JJ Johnson, who now lives just down the street from his new high school, originally hailed from Kansas, moving to Whidbey Island when he was eight.

Sports have been a big part of his life, and he played both basketball and football through his sophomore seasons at OHHS. Ultimately, though, his love for hoops won out.

“I’ve played basketball my whole life,” Johnson said. “I just thought I had more fun and more passion towards basketball. So I stopped playing football and focused on basketball.

He remembers getting his first hoop at age five, and from there, his love of the game, fueled by watching the prime time stars, grew.

“I started watching Kobe (Bryant) and Vince Carter, T-Mac (Tracy McGrady). Those guys were my favorite players,” Johnson said. “So I would go out and try to play like them and do their moves and then I started playing on a team.”

He has a very smooth shot, and while it can be a considerable plus, Johnson doesn’t want to be defined by just one side of his game.

“I think my strength on the court is my shooting. I love shooting the ball,” he said. “But I’m still working on my defense. I wanna be a two-way player, not just a shooter.”

Away from the court, he enjoys listening to music and watching sports and is a dedicated video game player.

He’d like to play college ball (“it’s been my dream”) and is considering playing at a prep school after CHS to better his game.

Before he gets to that decision, though, he wants to help his new squad, which is currently tied with Port Townsend for first-place in the 1A Olympic League standings, bring home an elusive banner.

“My goals for the season are to be league champions and nothing less,” Johnson said. “We have a great group of guys and coaches and I believe we can do it.”

Win or lose, he always knows his biggest fan is just a few feet away in the stands, which helps drive him to achieve new heights.

“The biggest impact in my life is my mom, she’s amazing,” Johnson said. “She’s done everything for me, she’s sacrificed a lot for me, going to school and being a single mom.

“I love her, she’s my rock.”

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Run, gun 'n stun. (John Fisken photos)

Run, gun ‘n stun. (John Fisken photos)

"Little help ... guys ... GUYS!!"

“Little help … guys … GUYS!!”

"Good lord, I don't remember the basket being quite so high during practice..."

“Good lord, I don’t remember the basket being quite so high during practice…”

"I'm on the line. I'm off the line. I'm on the line ... I could do this all day and ... whoah ... getting kinda dizzy now."

   “I’m on the line. I’m off the line. I’m on the line … I could do this all day and … whoah … getting kinda dizzy now, coach!!”

"I'm Superman, fool!!"

“I’m Superman, fool! You can’t stop Superman!!”

"Three seconds to play, game seven, the crowd hushes as the hero drives the baseline..."

   “Three seconds to play, game seven, the crowd hushes as the hero drives the baseline…”

"They call me the Weather Man ... cause I make it rain buckets!"

“They call me the Weather Man … cause I make it rain buckets!”


“Well, they call me UPS, cause I always deliver!!”

Basketballs were bouncing and trash talk was flowing.

Well, at least I’d like to think so.

Regardless of whether there really was any yapping Wednesday, there was plenty of hoops action playing out in the Coupeville Middle School gym.

The highlight (at least for the locals) came in the 8th grade varsity game, where the Wolves used a 32-8 second half surge to shred visiting Sultan 57-23.

Working the sidelines to give you a feel for the action was photo whiz kid John Fisken, who delivered the pics that reside above.

To see more, pop over to the links (and remember, purchases help fund college scholarships for CHS senior student/athletes):

7th grade:


8th grade:


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(John Fisken photo)

   Freshmen, embrace the chance to have moments like this in your future. (John Fisken photo)

There is no good reason not to play basketball.


Well, maybe two broken legs. But, other than that, nope, none.

As rumors sweep the land of a mass pre-season exodus from the Coupeville High School girls’ basketball program, primarily by a talented, confident and cohesive freshman class, I wish, for a moment, that those players who are deciding to prematurely end their careers could hop in a time machine.

Go forward ten, twenty years and you will discover what every former high school athlete knows in their later years.

What will haunt you in your later days is the opportunities you passed on, the chances you didn’t take, the memories you didn’t build.

When you speak to those who spent their school days at CHS — whether they won multiple Athlete of the Year awards and went on to play college ball or appeared in a handful of games — they almost always echo the thoughts of Wolf legend Marlene Grasser.

“I don’t remember awards, but do remember the fantastic experiences with my teammates,” Grasser said. “My best memories are all involving team sports. I looked forward to practices every day and the games were a blast.

“I loved my teammates and our mutual competitiveness and cohesiveness,” she added. “It is probably what I miss the most and was the hardest to let go of when I graduated.”

You have a unique opportunity in this town, at this time.

Coupeville sports teams aren’t cutting anyone, and we have a group of coaches (in all sports) who have shown a remarkable touch in making sure every athlete, from top to bottom talent-wise, has a chance to shine.

Makana Stone has shattered school records and is justly applauded, but the biggest roar I have heard at any Wolf sporting event in the past two-plus years was when Julia Felici scored the only basket of her high school basketball career.

A pass-first, second and pretty much always player who was usually looking to set up her teammates, Felici was the last girl on the Coupeville JV girls’ hoops squad to have not collected a basket.

Gently prodded by Wolf coach Amy King, Felici finally put up a shot late in the season.

Actually, she suddenly morphed into Kobe Bryant for one remarkable play, driving, stopping and popping, surprising herself more than anyone.

As the ball swished through the net, the student section went nuts. The parents lost it. King came unglued and the smile on Felici’s face is still there, two years later.

It is a scene played out across the board in numerous sports at CHS.

And, with the rise of Coupeville Sports, you have something else you won’t find at Archbishop Thomas Murphy or King’s, much less at Chimacum.

Regardless of where you land on the talent scale, your exploits will be covered, your memories captured on film and in print.

When I played tennis at Tumwater, a 3A school in the day, I once played first varsity singles in a match against North Mason. Not a single letter of my name appeared in the newspaper.

Now, here, even if you’re camping on the bench, you’re getting a feature story, several mentions in game stories and, very likely, frequent appearances in behind-the-scenes photos.

All you have to do is play.

When I watched the Central Whidbey Little League softball sluggers pound on opposing teams this summer, ten-running all comers, it was like stepping back to the glory days of the late ’90s and early 2000’s.

As they took the field, the Venom players, most of whom are now CHS freshmen, did so with a team-wide confidence that no group of Wolf players had displayed since the days when players like Ashley Bagby-Ellsworth, Tina Lyness and the Black ‘n Blue sisters put those state tournament banners up on the gym wall.

These are exciting times for Wolf fans, and it would be a shame if many of the young women who have such a bright future as athletes, students and Cow Town residents, sit out the winter.

But, as fans and writers, we will survive.

We’ll cheer for the girls who play and write about their exploits, both on the court and in the side moments where camaraderie and memories are forged.

The practices where a skill suddenly blossoms. The pregame shenanigans. The time spent with each other in locker rooms, on buses, grabbing food after a game and terrorizing the Washington State ferry employees.

If you choose not to play, no one can force you to.

And, while a poor turnout would hurt the entire program, especially if it reaches the point where there aren’t enough players to field a JV, the ultimate decision sits in the hands of each young woman.

Young women who I hope look into the future and see what they will be missing if they pass on this opportunity.

Regret often lingers for a long time.

The memories you would make playing ball? Those would stay with you for a lifetime.

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