'Deserving' Scooby Johnson of Benton Harbor claims Michigan Mr. Basketball award

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Southfield — Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling felt Carlos “Scooby” Johnson could one day be Mr. Basketball when he saw him play in the fourth grade, saying he stood out back then and has ever since.

Johnson was named Mr. Basketball during a ceremony Monday afternoon at the State Champs office on the campus of Lawrence Tech University.

Carlos "Scooby" Johnson of Benton Harbor holds the Mr. Basketball award on Monday.

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 forward, averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks for No. 7 Benton Harbor. He received 2,949 points in voting by Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) members.

Flint Beecher guard Jalen Terry (Oregon) finished second with 2,760 points, followed by Orchard Lake St. Mary’s guard Lorne Bowman II (Wisconsin) with 2,312, Clarkston center Matt Nicholson (Northwestern) with 1,678 and Detroit Cass Tech guard Tyson Acuff (Duquesne) with 1,497. Points were awarded by a 5-3-1 basis.

Johnson is the third player from Benton Harbor to win the award, the first since Wilson Chandler (DePaul) in 2005. Anthony “Pig” Miller (Michigan State) won the award in 30 years ago.

Johnson learned he won the Mr. Basketball honor in a phone call from his coach Friday.

“At first I didn’t answer the phone the first two times because I thought he wanted me to come to the gym and I was cleaning up," said Johnson, who patterns his game after Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "He called back and said it was urgent. I said, ‘What’s up?’ and he said, ‘You got what one of your goals was, you’re Mr. Basketball,’ and I was speechless for a few seconds.”

Johnson was a freshman phenom, averaging 14.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.3 rebounds to lead Benton Harbor to the Class B state semifinals in 2017. He earned a spot on The News Dream his sophomore year when he averaged 19 points and 13.9 rebounds.

Johnson topped off his sophomore season with 24 points and 11 rebounds in an overtime win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central to give Benton Harbor its first state title since 1965.

Johnson averaged 30.4 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and three blocks last year to again earn a spot on the Dream Team.

He followed with a strong senior season, which included posting 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a 73-51 win over Emoni Bates and defending Division 1 state champion Ypsilanti Lincoln Feb. 1.

Johnson feels his performance in the 2018 state championship game win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central helped him in garnering Mr. Basketball.

“I think it helped a lot," he said. "I think maybe some coaches who didn’t get a chance to see me play my freshman year got a great look at me.”

Johnson will play his college ball at Butler. No one is saying that he will duplicate the career of former Benton Harbor star Chet Walker, who played his high school ball in the late 1950s before an All-American career at Bradley and Hall of Fame career with the 76ers and Bulls.

Similarly, they are not likely predicting he will gain the national limelight of former Benton Harbor star David Adkins — now known as the comedian Sinbad. But Johnson’s future journey will be one to pay close attention to in the years ahead.

Sterling was asked how he reacted when getting the call from Mr. Basketball executive director Dan Young, telling him how Johnson won the prestigious award.

“I was overjoyed with emotions," said Sterling of Johnson, who helped lead Benton Harbor to a 91-9 record during his career. "I think Carlos had been the best player in the state all four years and I was proud when I got the call, so I was very happy for him because he’s deserving of everything he gets.”

“I had my eye on Scooby since he was in the fourth grade. He played jump- start basketball and he always dominated every time and played up. I knew we had to make sure he stayed with us and be a student at Benton Harbor High School and once that became reality he took care of business and led us to the Final Four his freshman year, as a sophomore he won a state championship for us, and if we get a chance to resume this year I think he’ll win another state championship for us.”

Sterling said Johnson was always working to get better, a reason he was holding the Mr. Basketball trophy.

“He had a great freshman year, but again he still stayed in the gym every day, he didn’t take time off,” Sterling said. “He’s always a student of the game. He watched a lot of film, but one thing he improved the most on is his perimeter game, his 15-foot shot, his 3-point shooting, and then his senior year he just filled out by hitting the weights hard and getting that NBA-ready body.”

When asked if he really thought the high school season would resume, Sterling replied: “With the news today it looks kind of bleak.”

Earlier Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced there would be a “Stay at Home” order for the next three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.