Mahir Johnson, a Chester native, was working out at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on City Line Avenue, on Thursday when he got a call from his agent, Andre Buck.
He wanted to know if Johnson had any Friday plans, burying the lead of the real news. Buck had landed Johnson a workout with the 76ers.
“I just found this out yesterday,'" Johnson said Friday morning at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden. “My agent said, ‘They’re going to put you in a hotel room tonight, so just be ready.’ And I was ready. This is what I was preparing for.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-2 guard, spent two years at Delaware State before transferring to Division II Goldey-Beacom for his junior and senior seasons. In his last year at Goldey-Beacom, based in Wilmington, Del., he averaged 13.8 points in 24.1 minutes per game.
“Mahir is a solid guard,” said Vince Rozman, the Sixers’ senior director of scouting. “He’s from Chester, he played locally, so to get those [kind of] guys in and see them in a different setting is helpful.”
Even though Johnson grew up just a short drive from Philadelphia, he wouldn’t call himself a Sixers fan. He loves basketball too much to box himself in like that.
“I just love coming in here and giving it my all,” Johnson said. “There’s something about walking into the gym, being in the gym, just getting better. I love everything about it.”
Often, Johnson trains and works out on his own, putting up 500-600 shots with no one else around. He said that the work has to start with him and that if he wants to make it, that’s the kind of work that’s necessary.
The Sixers will have one more group workout on Tuesday. By now, through all the group workouts, agent and prospect meetings and workouts on the road, as well as a mass of information gathered throughout the year, the Sixers have pretty much all the information they need as they head into Thursday’s NBA draft.
But the workouts in Camden are not just used for evaluating prospective players that the Sixers are considering selecting in the draft. Watching from the sidelines at many of the workouts is Delaware Blue Coats general manager Matt Lily and head coach Connor Johnson.
That’s where a players like Johnson comes in. He’s hoping that he can get a spot on a G League team.
“Coming from where I came from it’s just a blessing to make it to this point,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot and there’s times that I wanted to give up. I just kept working hard, kept giving it my all.”
Friday was Johnson’s first and only workout with an NBA team. He doesn’t have a world renowned trainer, his agent isn’t calling every day, and he knows that the opportunities for a player from a Division II school don’t come around often. So when he walked into the Sixers’ practice gym, he made sure to enjoy every moment.
“To be here and be able to experience this is something that I’ll never forget, so I’m just taking it all in,” he said.