All Over The Court — Crawfordsville’s Jesse Johnson-Hall stands out in Athenians’ record-breaking season, earns 2019 Journal Review Player of the Year
April 10, 2019
Jesse Johnson-Hall was the best player on the best boys basketball team in the area this past season.
He has the stats to back it up.
The sophomore averaged 15 points per game, grabbed 7.7 rebounds a contest, and dished out 1.9 assists.
And the skills that don’t always show up in the stat sheet too.
“He does a lot of little things that nobody realizes,” Crawfordsville boys basketball coach David Pierce said. “One he takes a lot of defensive attention. He’s going to pick up a lot of double teams, and he’s one of the best passers on our team, so he’s going to find those open guys and we still produce. He’s so knowledgeable of the game, and probably sees the court better than any of them.”
His statistics, first-team all Sagamore Conference nod, and leadership on Crawfordsville’s 18-7 conference title team earned Johnson-Hall the 2019 Journal Review boys basketball player of the year.
After missing the summer between his eighth-grade and freshman year due to a back injury, Johnson-Hall used last summer to step into a varsity role for the Athenians. And Pierce can remember the growing pains.
“I thought during the summer, the seniors really pushed him to accept a more dominate role on offense because of his skill set,” he said. “And I remember times in the summer where the seniors themselves benched him. ‘You’re not going to act like a freshman or sophomore, you’re going to man up and help us,’ and obviously it paid dividends.”
Johnson-Hall remembers an intense summer that helped him grow with his upperclassmen teammates.
“I think it was us having more team bonding and that helped with the team and us working harder,” he said. “We had practices and games, and we played a lot, which helped us get better.”
Last summer, Johnson-Hall also used AAU ball to practice his craft and elevate his shooting.
“It’s super important, especially in progression,” he said about offseason work. “Going and getting ready for the upcoming year.”
Johnson-Hall picks up a ball as many as six times a week in the offseason, and he proved the importance as he connected on 54 percent of his field goals, and 43 percent from 3-point range on his way to a 375-point season.
“The role we were asking him to play put a lot of weight on his shoulders, and I thought he handled it well, and quickly just continued to get better and better,” Pierce said. He was probably one of the most efficient players we’ve had around in a long long time, whether it’s shooting from outside or inside, his percentages were off the charts.”
While Johnson-Hall was the Athenian’s best player this season, he will be asked to even more as junior with five seniors leaving from this years’ squad. Most importantly, he will be asked to step into a leadership role, one he believes will easy after learning from the likes of Jake Decker, Anthony Gonzalez, Eddie Heinold, Will Kellerman, and Cam Saunders this season.
“Their leadership was one thing that was amazing this year,” he said. “I trusted them because they’ve been in this position before. I think it’s going to be really easy, because our seniors helped show what good leaders are.”
Pierce has already seen Johnson-Hall step up as a leader at an end of the season team meeting, and expects him to evolve into a natural leader on the floor.
“He’s a coach on the floor, and that’s a noticeable thing for us, is he does a lot of talking and gets guys in the right spots,” he said. “And motivates guys, and holds people accountable.”
And is excited to see him develop into an off the court leader.
“One thing he will have to learn how to do is to communicate with people, how to motivate them without being a distraction,” Pierce said. “And we have no clue what his skill set is because he’s never had to do that, and so we are excited to see.”
On the court, Johnson-Hall knows his defense needs to improve, and expects to put in the necessary work over the summer to see the improvement, while Pierce knows he will be the centerpiece of the Athenians’ offense.
“If you don’t have a kid that’s really long or athletic, I don’t know how you’re going to stop him,” he said.
Johnson-Hall had the best season on the areas best team this year, and he’s just getting started.
“The only thing that’s going to stop Jesse from improving, and who knows I think his ceiling is really high — is himself,” Pierce said.