NCS Sophomore of the Year
KENNEDY JOHNSON, BISHOP O'DOWD
Kennedy Johnson had a terrific regular season despite missing about a third of it due to injury, then helped lead Bishop O’Dowd through a marvelous postseason that culminated in NCS Division II and CIF NorCal championships. She averaged 14.7 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, and two steals per game, and patrolled the post on defense, often against larger players. Johnson is the Prep2Prep NCS Girls Sophomore of the Year.
“Kennedy really cares about her teammates, she’ll do whatever she can for the team,” coach Malik McCord remarks. “She’s growing into a leader that I don’t even think she recognizes.”
Johnson was runner-up to Mia Mastrov for Prep2Prep’s Freshman of the Year last season. McCord says that in her sophomore year, Johnson “opened her game with penetration” and also started launching the three’s she only exhibited in practice the year prior. She also matured in not putting too much pressure on herself; if things didn’t go right, she didn’t let it get to her head.
Johnson took to basketball at around third grade, first playing in the YMCA and later joining AUU clubs. Older sister Raven played for Hayward, graduating in 2016. And that was crucial – because the team didn’t fare well during her time there (the Farmers were an abysmal 21-68 in that stretch) – and, Kennedy says, Raven’s overall experience wasn’t great. The girls’ parents were familiar with O’Dowd, and knew Malik and his program. Dad saw the perfect opportunity for Kennedy to blossom as a player; mom liked the academics that the school offered. And while Kennedy did not know any students, she attended their open gym and spent the summer practicing with the team and taking it all in.
Johnson credits her coaches, particularly Assistant Shannon Donahue (or Coach “D” as she’s known) for their continued belief in her, and their words and inspiration. She also acknowledges junior Jenna Kilty, and praises senior guards Jada Holland and Lexi Love.
“If I slacked off in practice, Jada would say ‘Why are you doing any less than your best?’ Lexi always humbled herself. She just puts in the work.”
The Dragons were 5-7 through December, mostly against top competition in tournaments (Nike TOC, Cardinal Newman Classic, West Coast Jamboree Gold Division). Then, during the break between the Jamboree and West Alameda County – Foothill League play, she went down with an Achilles injury. She missed nine games, then was slowly introduced back into the lineup. She accumulated 19 points in 14 minutes across the first two games. The injury may have a blessing in disguise.
“It made her a smarter player,” McCord says. “She absorbed what went on the floor as a player and as a coach. When she came back, she applied it.”
Despite still not being at 100 per cent by the time the playoffs started, Johnson was at the forefront of the Dragons’ NCS Division II title march. In the final, played at Dublin on her 16th birthday incidentally - she had the game of her life – 32 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals – as the team eked out a 64-59 victory over Miramonte.
She was instrumental in punching the O’Dowd’s ticket to Sacramento with a game-high 24 points in a rematch with Miramonte in the State quarterfinal, and another game-high total, 19 points, versus Bear Creek in the NorCal title game.
Along with freshman sensation Amaya Bonner, Johnson performed well in the CIF Division I state championship game against Rosary Academy-Fullerton, totaling 13 points and seven boards in a 75-58 defeat. There’s little doubt that she and Bonner will take center stage as they look to defend their titles next season.
Johnson’s versatility in a system built for just that will benefit both her and O’Dowd tremendously, and McCord looks to “move her around more next year.”
She’s worked on her shooting, and looks to improve her ball-handling and passing ability. Whatever happens in 2019-20, the future is very bright for this youngster.
“I feel we have enough experience even with Jada and Lexi leaving,” she says. “We know what it takes, and we’ve been there. To finish what we started.”
For her efforts throughout the season, we are pleased to recognize Kennedy Johnson as the Prep2Prep North Coast Section Sophomore of the Year.