IKEAL JOHNSON has proved to be a focused and strong-willed young man during 4 years at Philadelphia Military Academy-Elverson.
Know why he's there? 'Cause he couldn't get the best of his grandmom.
Johnson already was showing basketball talents as an eighth-grader, and a charter high school with a high-profile program made a serious overture. Forget it, basically, was the message from Maxine Goodman.
Two and threes, she figured, would not do as much for Ikeal's future as hup-two-three-four.
"Yup, my grandmom won out," a smiling Johnson said. "I tried hard, but I couldn't fight against her will. She wanted me here.
"She said she would always be proud of my basketball skills, but grades were more important, and Elverson would give me good discipline. She said if I could handle it here, it would put me on a good route. Help me for the rest of my life."
Grandmom knew best.
Johnson, a wing guard, is now a 6-3, 180-pound senior, and coach Howard Waxman knows he could star in a Division III environment, perhaps even D-II. Though the competition was not exactly sterling, Johnson did look impressive Thursday as the visiting Bulldogs stormed past Maritime Charter, 70-35, in a Public E game at the Juniata Park Boys & Girls Club.
Shooting 13-for-20 from the floor and 3-for-6 at the line, he notched 29 points. He also collected eight rebounds, two assists and nine steals.
Elverson, which is slated to close this June, is located at 13th and Susquehanna, just beyond the north edge of Temple's campus. And Johnson is one of its shining stars.
He can be found the top 10 seniors academically and stands third in his class in the military hierarchy. His rank in the Junior ROTC is captain, and he supervises all upperclassmen when it comes to physical training.
Johnson said the students wear green military uniforms Monday through Wednesday, go the casual route on Thursday and dress for PT on Friday.
"Elverson has been a great place for me," he said. "It keeps me active and out of trouble. There's no chance to waste my time doing things I shouldn't be doing.
"Someone who chooses the military life, I give them great respect. Those people are fighting for our country. Being in this military environment, I get to learn what's really going on in our society. I have a heads-up before regular people."
Maritime, a first-year Pub member, was heavily outmanned, and its cause wasn't helped when junior guard Quentin Fischer suffered an injury to his left ankle midway through the second quarter.
Elverson played fullcourt man-to-man throughout a 24-10 first quarter, in which Johnson scored nine of his points. That defense was employed the rest of the way, minus the fullcourt aspect, and the Bulldogs showed great dedication.
Senior point guard Antonio Feria sniffed a quadruple double, thanks to 10 points, 12 assists, 11 steals and seven rebounds. He was the only starter to remain on the floor - just for cohesion purposes - until very late in the game, when Johnson checked back in to run the point.
Though Johnson semi-flips the ball toward the rim, his shots feature good rotation and touch. A few times, he unfurled fastbreak drives of roughly half the court.
"I'm not a selfish player," he said. "I'm always trying to get my teammates involved. But at times I do have to step up and try to lead my team to wins."
Senior Two Osis (13) also scored in double figures, while frosh Davon Perry packed all eight of his points into the first quarter. Junior Akeem Roberts topped the Seadogs with 21 points; junior Wendell Vann snagged nine rebounds.
Johnson, who lives on 27th, near Cambria, remains hopeful of earning college attention for hoops. Already, for his academic prowess, he has been offered a full ride by the junior college portion of Valley Forge Military Academy.
Long range . . .
"I'd like to be a naval engineer," Johnson said.
Say what? The Navy over the Army?
"Well," he said, laughing, "I guess you could say I'm still deciding about all that."
Perhaps grandmom will want to weigh in.