Why Lipscomb signee and Tennessee top scorer K.J. Johnson won't cut his hair

Photo: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean

Why Lipscomb signee and Tennessee top scorer K.J. Johnson won't cut his hair

Boys Basketball

Why Lipscomb signee and Tennessee top scorer K.J. Johnson won't cut his hair


Meet Kadrion “K.J.” Johnson.

He’s a 6-foot-2 guard on the Marshall County (Lewisburg, Tenn.) basketball team, a Lipscomb signee, the most prolific scorer in Tennessee the past two seasons.

He surpassed the 1,000 career points mark as a junior, averaging 31.4 points per game en route to claiming Class AA Mr. Basketball honors, and, 18 games into his senior season, he is averaging a state-leading 35.8 points per game.

“He’s a scorer. There’s no doubt about that,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said.

Now, meet Johnson’s hair.

“There’s a story behind that hair,” his mother, Crystal Gillum, said of her son’s trademark long locks.

If you ask Johnson, he’ll tell you that his hair, which hasn’t been cut since midway through his sophomore season, is more than a fashion statement. To the superstitious scoring machine, it’s one of the secrets to his success.

“Freshman year I started growing it out,” Johnson recalled. “It was small”

It was nowhere near its size today, but then again, neither was Johnson.

“I didn’t get to play as much,” he said of his freshman campaign. “I was kind of real little and it was hard to drive past people, so I mostly shot the ball.”

As his arsenal grew, so did his playing time. The hair never stopped.

Then one day during his sophomore year, he decided it was time for a trim. Johnson struggled through his next few games, however, and that’s when former Marshall County coach Arnet Bodenheimer made the suggestion:

“It was like he went downhill,” said K.J.’s father, Jerry Johnson. “So Bodenheimer told him, ‘Boy, don’t you ever cut your hair no more.’ And he hasn’t touched it since. He might trim it, but he ain’t going to cut it.”

Added Johnson: “Ever since then I’ve just kept growing it, and I never cut again because I was kind of superstitious about it.”

Johnson, who eclipsed the 2,000 career points mark in December, said he doesn’t know when he’ll cut it again.

Marshall County coach Lavon King doesn’t think it will be anytime soon, though.

“I think he had talked about after his last high school game maybe starting over again for college. But right now, it’s just one of those things, like Samson,” King said, referring to the Biblical account.

Added Gillum: “When he first went to Lipscomb that’s one of the things he asked, ‘Do I have to cut my hair?’ And they’re like, ‘No sir, you don’t have to cut your hair.’ I love it. That’s just him. It brings out his personality.”

Johnson, who chose Lipscomb over his finalists Campbell, Chattanooga, Morehead State, North Alabama and Wofford, is just 103 points shy of tying Marshall County’s all-time scoring record set by Kedren Johnson (no relation), who went on to play at Vanderbilt.

At his current scoring rate, that should take him about three more games.

He dropped 53 in Friday’s 79-69 come-from-behind win at Central Magnet — his fourth 50-point performance of the season.

“I’d like to say it’s pretty rare, but it’s not,” King said. “He’s by far the best player I’ve ever coached.

Read the rest of the story at the Tennesseean.


More USA TODAY High School Sports