Kyle Johnson knows what it's like to be a part of a very successful high school boys basketball team.

He was a significant contributor on Jimtown's 2003-04 Class 2A state championship squad. 

Lessons were learned by Johnson during that special season. 

He gained more basketball knowledge after high school as a basketball player at Grace College and during his time as a varsity assistant and freshman boys basketball coach. 

Those experiences helped earn the 33-year old Johnson an opportunity to become the new varsity boys basketball coach at Independence High School in Independence, Ohio. 

The school is 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland. The practice facility for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers is right down the road from the high school. 

Johnson gave several reasons why the job attracted him.

"First of all, it's my first head coaching opportunity and it's a lot like Jimtown," said Johnson. "There are 350 kids at the high school and there's a family-like and a small town community feel to it. You're also working with some great, hard working kids. What also appealed to me is the school's great academics and athletic facilities."

The past two years he was a varsity assistant boys basketball coach at Fairview High School. Prior to his time at Fairview, Johnson served as the freshman coach at Avon Lake. 

"When I've learned is that defensively you've got to be able to guard people, no matter how skilled you are offensively. You can't win conference championships if you don't defend. 

"Effort is another important thing. Effort makes up for mistakes offensively and defensively. It doesn't take talent to play hard."

"I know I want us to be a disciplined, hard working team. I don't want us to beat ourselves by making mistakes. Fundamentals are important to me."

Johnson's goal is to have a solid man-to-man defensive team and share the ball on offense.

He's looking for those principles to help improve a program that finished 9-14 a year ago.

"I want ball movement and player movement on the offense," Johnson said. "More people that touch the ball, the more successful you're going to be on offense."

During that 2003-04 season, Johnson averaged 14 points and seven rebounds a game for the Jimmies, who finished that year with a 25-2 record. 

Johnson scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had four assists and three blocked shots in Jimtown's 63-59 win over top-ranked Brownstown Central. 

After the game, Johnson earned the IHSAA's Mental Attitude Trester Award.

As a senior, Johnson was a captain, a team MVP, an All-Northern State Conference selection and a member of the all-sectional and all-regional teams. 

That stellar play helped earn Johnson a spot into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

But for Johnson individual accolades don't overshadow winning a state championship.

"The older I get the more I realize how difficult it is to be in the position to be in the state title game and win it," Johnson said. "Coach (Randy) DeShone preached to us to take it one game at a time. Coach realized how tough it was (to win a state title).

"I think the one thing I learned throughout the process is the importance of the togetherness that we had. We liked each other and helped each other and played team basketball, especially my senior year. We had four guys that were double figure scorers and we bought into sharing the basketball."

After high school, Johnson continued to impress while playing at Grace. He finished his career with 1,087 points, 552 rebounds and 206 assists. 

Johnson, who has lived in Ohio for 10 years and is currently an Avon Lake resident, just finished up working a summer youth basketball camp. There were 33 kids at the camp from grades 3rd to 8th. 

Also in June and July, Johnson will be involved with workouts and open gym. At the end of June, Johnson is taking his team to Cleveland State University team camp. 

Johnson got re-married a year and a half ago. He and his wife (Jenn) each had three have children from their previous marriage. There are three boys and three girls from ages 6 to 11.

"Everyone says we're the modern Brady Bunch," Johnson joked.

Johnson, who also lettered four years in football and one in baseball at Jimtown, was asked if he still follows the athletic scene at his alma mater.

"I really don't," Johnson said. "My life is crazy. It's hard to do that. Every once in awhile I'll look and see how things are going. I see that Randy (DeShone) just got the Fairfield (boys basketball) job. My dad (Gene) was with me last weekend and gave me the inside scoop."

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