Ramon Johnson keeps sense of humor as Concord gets ready for serious battle

Wisp of a guard will lead Minutemen in Class 4A regional against Penn.

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 6:08 p.m.

DUNLAP — Ironies abound in Ramon Johnson's world.

The Concord High School senior star says fellow wisp of a guard Allen "We're Talking About Practice" Iverson is the pro player who most inspired Johnson when he was a youngster, because Iverson "could do it all."

But, adds Johnson with a smile, "I love to practice. It's a good way to get better."

Then there was the irony last week of the obviously popular Johnson suddenly owning the highest sight line of anybody in North Side Gym once fans and teammates hoisted him upon their shoulders when the Minutemen won the Class 4A Elkhart boys basketball sectional.

Johnson, after all, was 4-foot-11 when he was a freshman, and is just 5-9 now.

"It felt amazing," Johnson said of being lifted up, "but for all of us, winning that was special. The group of guys we have all work so hard and knew our goal. It was just a team achievement."

Perhaps the most striking recent irony, though, was the way Johnson reacted earlier this week when asked about the severely sprained ankle that fellow starter Brett Austin suffered less than 24 hours earlier — presumably sobering news with Concord (15-8) getting set to play No. 6-ranked Penn (22-1) in the 4A Michigan City Regional semifinals on Saturday, March 15.

Johnson laughed at mention of the injury, and not just barely laughed, but let out a hearty one belying his size, a diabolical one belying his boyish looks.

Austin was injured tripping on some ice outside his house. He likely won't play Saturday.

What's so funny about that?

"I mean, I don't know how that happened," Johnson said, still chuckling. "He's not the clumsiest person, but after hearing what he did, he's up there."

If that response seems to gravitate toward heartless, consider that even Austin's own dad, head coach Steve Austin, referred to his son as "Mr. Gimpy over there" during a shoot-around Tuesday.

"We've just got to keep fighting with who we have," Johnson said, turning a bit more serious.

Johnson can be deadly serious. Just ask opponents. He averages 19.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.1 steals, all team-leading figures, and has often been known to be at his best when the Minutemen need him most.

He's also been known to care about the team aspect, and been known to make in-game adjustments.

"You just have to look at what's happening, and sometimes figure out a new game plan," Johnson said of his approach to a game's twists and turns, "especially if everybody's not involved, because it takes all five to win a basketball game. It takes everybody. I really believe that."

"He has a perception out there that you can't teach," Steve Austin said. "He's obviously very important to our success."

The youngest of three siblings, and the only son of Ramon and Stacy Johnson, the younger Ramon plays no other sports at Concord, but does like recreational bowling, saying his high game is 180.

He plans to study business in college and is hoping to play basketball collegiately, but only a few smaller-division schools have given him a look so far. 

Most immediately, though, for a player who has always been an underdog of sorts based on size, is the task of leading a prohibitive underdog in the regional against Penn. The Kingsmen beat the Minutemen by 18 during the regular season.

"We have to do the little things," Johnson said of the rematch. "They're a really good fundamental team. They can run, they can slow it down, can do about everything. We have to do the little things, box out, crash the boards hard, and pick our moments, recognize when we can't take 'em and when we can take 'em."


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