Johnston shows promise as a young leader on the court

Sophomore+guard+Cornell+Johnston+has+217+points+on+the+season+averging+10.9+points+per+game.

Jason Howell

Sophomore guard Cornell Johnston has 217 points on the season averging 10.9 points per game.

Maria Baldwin, Assistant Sports Editor

Sophomore guard Cornell Johnston has had a passion for basketball from a very young age, and that fire to perform at a top level still burns.

‘’I started play basketball at the YMCA when I was about five years old and I found love for the game right away,’’ Johnston said, ‘’I was one of the fastest guys on the court right away and I could make baskets at a young age.’’

As a starting point guard, Johnston leads the EIU offense.

In his freshman year, Johnston was the only player on the team to start in all thirty-three games. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, along with being named onto the OVC All-Newcomer Team and the EIU Newcomer of the Year.

In the off-season Johnston said he typically works on ball-handling, shooting off the dribble, and being able to get his shot off faster.

Now, as a sophomore, Johnston has undertaken a vital leadership role on the court for his team.

‘’It means a lot to me to the leader because not only do the coaches believe in me, but all my teammates believe in me,’’ Johnston said, ‘’My role is to lead them and to get everybody going, keep everyone’s energy up, and to make sure everyone is locked in on defense so we can get good looks on offense, because defense turns into offense.’’

Johnston has played in twenty games this year, averaging 38 minutes on the court, 10.9 points a game, and 5.6 assists per game. Johnston has scored a total of 217 points with 112 assists.

His highest scoring game this season was against Northern Kentucky, where he scored 24 points for the Panthers, playing 43 minutes of the game.

Although his offensive skills look impressive, Johnston knows that as a point guard he is the first line of defense on the other side of the court.

‘’I want everyone on our team to understand the defense is what is going to win us games this year, ‘’Johnston said, ‘’If we can play good defense, we can win conference.’’

Eastern is currently ranked 2nd in the conference behind Murray State.

Johnston said it is not about how big you are, but how big you play that makes all the difference on the court.

‘’What this means to me is that because I’m smaller than the other guys I have to play faster than the guy who is checking me,’’ Johnston said. ‘’So I learned to keep them off-balance, speeding up, slowing down, keeping them on their toes, and not letting them time my moves.’’

Other members putting up impressive numbers for team include senior Trae Anderson and junior A.J Riley.

Anderson leads the Panthers averaging 13.6 points a game, grabs an average of 4.8 rebounds a game and has scored a total of 271 points thus far in the season.

Riley, a newcomer this year, averages 11.9 points per game and has scored 238 total points.

All three Panthers have played all 20 games so far in the season.

Point guard is the position Johnston has played his entire life, and he is as passionate about it now as he was as a child.

‘’It means a lot to me because the point guard is the quarterback of football, they lead the team, ‘’Johnston said, “They get everything going. They get the offense flowing, they are the first line of defense, and It means a lot because everyone on the team feeds off of my energy.’’

The Panthers will return home to Lantz Arena Thursday to take on UT Martin at 7 p.m.

 

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 521-2812 or [email protected]