Featured image courtesy of Rick Johnson.
As a junior at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California, Myles Johnson sets himself apart in two ways.
On the basketball court, the center and power forward thinks of himself as a defensive-minded player, using his 7-foot-1-inch wingspan to grab rebounds and rack up blocks.
“I play pretty good help defense,” he said. “I pride myself on defense.”
Away from the court, Johnson has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, and this year, has gotten it as high as a 4.2 on a 4.0 scale.
“I take mostly [Advanced Placement] classes, and if you get an ‘A’ in an AP it counts as a higher weight [than] an ‘A’ in a normal class,” Johnson explained. This year, he is taking three AP classes.
He is also recovering from a broken patella – the bone more commonly known as the kneecap – which he injured in September during a basketball practice. He has had to miss the entirety of his junior season so far, but said he will probably be back by April.
“It has been pretty difficult watching them play without me,” he said of his team. “It’s hard to see your team do so well. I like how they’re doing well, but I want to be part of it instead of just [being] a bystander.”
Despite the injury setback, Johnson has already received a Division I offer from Yale University, one of eight schools in the Ivy League.
“I’m looking for a school that has a good academic record and a good basketball program,” he said, adding that a balance between the two features will be his top priority when it comes time to pick a school.
Johnson said he now stands between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, and that he’s grown about four inches since his freshman year. He listed the mid-range and low post areas as his strong suits on the court.
Though he didn’t immediately identify with any NBA player in particular, he said he liked the style of Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis.
“He’s lanky, he gets a lot of tip jams [and] he can shoot,” Johnson said of Porzingis, noting that in order to model his game after the Latvian he’d need to work on developing his three-point shot.
While he may not be able to get much playing time in during this year’s high school season, Johnson said he should be back in action by the time games for his travel team, the Los Angeles Rockfish, start up in the summertime.
He’s played for the Rockfish for the past two years, and praised coaches Glenn Marx and Andrew Gupilan for helping him take his game to the next level. “They put my name out there [and] made me who I am,” he said.
Another benefit Johnson derives from travel play is the variety and heightened skill level of opponents. “[With] travel ball you get to be seen by more people and you get to do more than high school,” he said. “[In] high school you play only certain people, but travel ball you play the best out of everyone. You play against better competition.”
It’s likely against this stiff competition that Johnson will need to prove his dominance if he hopes to garner more offers from schools, and he knows just what adjustments he’ll have to make in order to help himself.
“To get more attention from colleges, I’ll probably need to get faster and be able to play out from the wing and work on my defense against guards instead of just big people so I can be more of a threat,” he said. “On the offensive end, I could work on stepping my way out of the paint and doing more outside stuff.”
As he makes these improvements to his game, Johnson keeps in mind a backup plan.
“I definitely want to go to the [NBA], but if that doesn’t work out I want to be an engineer,” he said. “I’m looking at maybe the top engineering schools to go to that have good basketball programs.”
He said he’s been interested in the profession since he was young. “I’m a math and science person,” he said, “and I just found it really interesting, so I think that would be a good field for me.” That is, of course, if the whole 7-foot-1 wingspan thing doesn’t pan out.