A stellar junior season opened some big doors for Erie boys' basketball standout Jacob Johnston.|
And walking through those doors in turn helped the 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward take the fast track to a career milestone.
With less than two full varsity campaigns under his belt, Johnston surpassed the 1,000-point career scoring standard in the Cardinals' 46-30 Three Rivers Conference win over Amboy. Needing 12 points to reach that mark, he gave himself a little something extra by putting in a game-high 19 points.
"I'd thought about it a couple of times and was curious where I was. I'd asked coach (Ryan) Winckler, but he told me he didn't know," said Johnston. "That was probably a good thing. It was good for me to just play and not worry about the numbers."
After averaging nearly 19 points per game in his first year of varsity ball, Johnston gave his game an upgrade when, on the advice of former Erie assistant and current Geneseo coach Brad Storm, he decided to try his hand at the AAU game.
Trying out for the Peoria Irish, Johnston made the roster and gained valuable experience that he's been able to apply to full effect. He averages 21.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game for a 15-9 Erie club that is still in the TRAC-9 hunt with a 5-3 mark.
"I talked to all of my coaches, and they thought it'd be a good idea to try out for that team," Johnston said. "I didn't know if I'd be good enough to be on the Irish, but I thought I had nothing to lose, and that it could be a good experience. I was a little bit surprised when I got the call to be on the team.
"It helped a lot. It was good to get out and play a lot of really good competition. The game's different, more faster-paced, almost a playground type of ball. Coming back to high school ball, it can almost seem a bit slower, but also my role for high school is different from AAU, and it's not any easier."
Taking on a larger portion of the scoring duties this season also has sped up Johnston's road to 1,000, although Winckler — who noted Johnston has been held to single-digit scoring in just two career games — is still astounded it took his senior star less than two seasons to get there.
Happy that this milestone is behind him, Johnston now hopes to crown his prep career with a more appropriate achievement — the Cardinals' first regional championship since 2005.
"It's not like going for 1,000 was the only thing keeping me going," he said. "Now, the focus is on winning regionals. That'd be cooler to me than getting 1,000 points."