Indiana Baseball commit makes return to basketball court

Cody Allgor | Staff Writer

Senior guard Max Johnson goes up for a layup against Lakota East. Despite being committed to Indiana University for baseball, Johnson still decided to return to basketball for his senior season after playing Freshman and Sophomore year.

 If senior Max Johnson had to be described in one word, it would be competitor. 

After one year away from basketball, the Indiana University baseball commit decided to return to the hardwood this winter for his senior season. Johnson had previously played basketball since intermediate school before deciding to take a step back his junior year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all 2020 spring sports were stopped before they could even begin, including baseball. Johnson said that if not for the pandemic, he is unsure if he would have returned to basketball. 

“A big part in me playing basketball is that I wanted to compete in a Mason uniform, even if it’s another sport,” Johnson said. “Competing is always what I want to do, I want to compete. If I would have had my baseball season last year, I’m not sure I would have played basketball, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did. I’m really enjoying this season and I’m enjoying the team this year.”

Before Johnson stepped foot on the court, he reached out to his future coaches at Indiana University. Indiana recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Dan Held had nothing against Johnson playing basketball, saying that Indiana encourages their athletes to play multiple sports throughout high school.

“We do not discourage any of our commits from continuing to play sports at their High School and with their friends,” Held said. “We love multisport athletes as it develops different muscles and allows for players to continue to compete.”

When Johnson decided to step back onto the court, he was taking a risk with the chance of getting injured and hindering his future baseball career. However, Johnson said that whenever he is playing, the thought of getting injured never crosses his mind.

“When I’m out there, I’m competing and trying to win for our team,” Johnson said. “No matter what it is, baseball or basketball, I’m just trying to give 100 percent. When I’m out there I’m never thinking about getting hurt.”

Johnson was on the junior varsity team as an underclassman, which meant he didn’t have much varsity basketball experience. Varsity Assistant Coach Kyle Peters said he had his doubts about Johnson’s play, but those quickly faded away early on.

“Being a year away from basketball we just didn’t know how he would react or handle the varsity basketball competition,” Peters said. “But after our second scrimmage, it went from not only can Max handle it, but Max is going to be competing for a starting job. He demonstrated early on in our scrimmages that it wasn’t too fast or too big for him and he could definitely compete at a high level.”

Johnson is not new to big stages, starting on the varsity baseball team since his freshman year. With 55 total varsity games under his belt, Johnson said that the varsity experience from baseball helped him transition into varsity basketball.

“Playing in high-level baseball games has helped me out on the basketball court because I feel like the moment doesn’t get too big,” Johnson said. “I’m always calm and collected out there. I feel like I never stress about ‘oh, I haven’t played in over a year.’ Once the ball tips off I just compete.”

Being a division one athlete, Johnson possesses many athletic skill sets. However, Johnson’s success on the court goes deeper than just being an athlete. Peters said that Johnson’s coachability plays a large part in his success on the basketball court.

“Max is a strong kid and he’s very athletic,” Peters said. “In the mental aspect of things, he is always under control and has a calming effect out there. He understands what us as coaches want and the game is not too big for him, he is excelling at that.

Johnson has played in every game so far and has the best assist to turnover ratio on the team. Peters said that he is thrilled Johnson returned to playing basketball. 

“I am a firm believer in doing things while you can,” Peters said. “Max is good enough and had an opportunity to still play basketball for his high school. We support kids from a basketball standpoint of playing multiple sports and we’re just excited that he decided to come back and play basketball. He has certainly been a bright spot this season so far.”

Photo by Riley Johansen