Fireworks almost ended career of top 2020 Tennessee basketball recruit before it began

Photo: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean

Fireworks almost ended career of top 2020 Tennessee basketball recruit before it began

Boys Basketball

Fireworks almost ended career of top 2020 Tennessee basketball recruit before it began

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Keon Johnson is the best high school basketball player in Tennessee for next year’s recruiting class.

A fireworks incident three years almost ended his playing career before it tipped off. However, that accident has changed his mindset and helped refocus his priorities.

Johnson, now a 16-year-old  junior at the Webb School (Bell Buckle, Tenn.), doesn’t remember all the details of that day. Then 13, he dropped a firework explosive into the mortar and lit the fuse. Only the fuse was short and it went off.

He was thrown about 10 feet and knocked out. His left, non-shooting hand, took the brunt of the blast.

“I was in the ambulance and they were saying they may have to amputate my hand,” Johnson said. “The fuse was short. I was just lighting it in the mortar and the fuse went real quick.”

Three years later, Johnson is the No. 8 point guard in the country and No. 32 overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite for the Class of 2020. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound junior has offers that include Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

He said he likely won’t announce his college decision until just before his senior season at Webb.

“I don’t want to make a decision anytime soon because I have another big summer ahead, ” said Johnson, who averages 25.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists this year.

But the fireworks incident served as a wakeup call for him.

Johnson had pins placed in his left hand. He has full range of motion in it.

“That incident was an eye-opener for me,” Johnson said. “If something did go bad and I didn’t have a hand, what could I do?”

Webb’s Keon Johnson (23), JJ Platt (3). and Jordan Jenkins (13) reacts to a called foul against BGA during the second half at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean)

What Keon Johnson means to Webb School

The Webb School, located in Bell Buckle, has 303 students at the school from sixth grade through high school.

Johnson stands out on campus, especially to the younger pupils.

He often hangs out with the middle schoolers, having lunch with them.

“They will be like, ‘Man I got to eat with him,'” said Webb coach Jeff Mitchell.

Johnson doesn’t look at it that way. He remembers what it was like when he was their age.

“He is the big man on campus,” Webb athletic director Scott Dorsett said. “But he is not that kind of guy.

“He’s not going to run to the limelight. Everybody is like, ‘He’s the big brother.'”

A big brother with a big college basketball future.

The talk at lunch always eventually turns to basketball. His younger classmates like to give their opinion on where the top basketball prospect in Webb history should attend.

“We’ve got a lot of Tennessee fans on our campus,” said Johnson, with a laugh. “Let’s just say they have a lot of on-campus recruiters.”

He’s especially close to assistant coach James Garcia’s family. Garcia’s wife, Mallory, helps tutor Johnson.

“Their children Cadence, Asher and Nolan love Keon,” said Conswella Johnson, Keon’s mother. “Keon recently babysat for the Garcias on a Friday night so that they could attend the Bells and Buckles Gala.”

Webb’s Keon Johnson (23) shoots against BGA during the second half at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean)

Fishing best sport

If Keon Johnson isn’t on the basketball court in the summer he’s most likely at an area lake. He fishes often with his grandparents Robert and Elaine Johnson and dad, Keith.

On Mondays, they go to Wheeler Dam in Alabama and fish for crappie.

He’s told Dorsett he’d captain a bass fishing team if Webb would start one.

“Ever since I was a little kid my dad and granddad would say, ‘Hey, you can get out of school if you want to go fishing with us,'” said Johnson, who has a 35-pound flathead catfish in his family’s freezer and is the biggest fish he’s caught. “That started my passion at a very early age.

“We’re catching crappie … Catch and grease, that’s what we call it.”

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Fireworks almost ended career of top 2020 Tennessee basketball recruit before it began
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