Road to the State Championship: Taylor Johns’ high-flying impact

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns' above-the-rim game has fueled the Irish throughout the season. (Photo by Doug Ko)

Editor’s note: This is the second in a weeklong series of stories on the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team leading up to Saturday’s state championship game.

By Jeremy Balan

On the scoreboard, an ordinary jump shot and an emphatic dunk are both worth two points, but their impact on a game can be entirely different.

The spark and momentum gained from a dunk, especially in high school basketball, can be the difference between winning and losing. Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns has provided that spark on so many occasions this season.

The dunks can come on breakaways, on the block or on alley-oops, but his trademark seems to be flying through the center of the lane to follow missed shots with an equally energizing (for his team) and deflating (for the other team) flush.

“It’s just fun,” Johns said. “It’s a momentum-builder. Not just for me and [fellow senior forward] Josh [Fox], but our guards get pumped up and the other team gets shaky after big plays like that.”

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns has always been a threat in the paint, but it has been the evolution of his game on the wing that has helped the Irish reach a higher level. (Photo by Eric Luis)

Although he was listed at 6-foot-4 on the Irish roster to start the season, he’s actually closer to 6-foot-6, but his lanky arms and legs, along with his presence and position on the court, almost make him look larger than that.

He also embraces the persona that he has created, whether through YouTube video highlights and mix tapes or his Twitter handle (@TayBangOut_5), as a player that can not only score, but score with style. That persona has found Johns in the crosshairs of opposing fans, most notably in “The Jungle” at Serra, where the student section has hurled insults and taunts at Johns.

“They don’t do that unless you’re a good player,” said Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour. “But he’s the kind of kid that can handle that.”

Despite a standout junior season, Division I recruiters were not knocking down Johns’ door, but now he’s the only Irish senior that is getting interest from multiple D-I programs. Johns has already received a scholarship offer from UC Riverside and has also garnered interest from Portland, Sacramento State and Louisiana-Monroe.

The reason for the increased interest has been a stark improvement in his perimeter game, where he has shown an ability to hit outside shots, drive past and back down defenders, as well as distribute.

“There’s no doubt that he’s made a lot of progress and that’s impressive to see,” said Gerry Freitas, the director of Hoop Review, a scouting service for college coaches. “Personally, I get excited when I see progress, because I know that has to do with the kid’s effort. [Barbour] obviously does a good job, but a lot of that has to do with the kid. You don’t develop magically.”

Even last season, many viewed Johns as a one-dimensional player, but he still has plenty of room for improvement to shift to his likely college position as a small forward or wing player.

“He’s obviously an elite athlete,” Freitas said. “You won’t find a better athlete. The concern is at the next level, he projects to be a 3 man and his 3 skills aren’t quite there yet. That’s how schools are evaluating him.”

Johns also hesitates, at times, to take outside shots and has had ugly moments this season at the free-throw line.

In some games, his free-throw stroke is fluid and he steps to the line with confidence, while in others he has struggled mightily, including an 0-for-8 performance on the road against Riordan this season.

“I just don’t know. At practice, I hit them,” Johns said. “I think sometimes I’m up there too jittery. If I go up there calm and just shoot, and have a flow to the shot, it goes in more.”

The free throws speak to a larger issue of consistency with Johns, one in which he openly acknowledges.

He can alternate from being a dominant force (26 points against Miramonte on March 10), to middling (13 points against Center on March 13) to largely ineffective (four points apiece in two games against Bellarmine and five points in the Bruce-Mahoney game against St. Ignatius).

One thing is clear, however, and it is validated by the Division I interest. Johns will improve and it’s only a question of to what degree.

“He will get better because he’s a kid that will play seven days a week,” Barbour said. “You don’t have to ask him to work on his game and he will run to the weight room, not walk away from it. To his credit, it’s quite obvious he’s put in the time to get better. His transformation didn’t come overnight.”

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Charlie Peters says:

    Good story about an exciting player!

  2. M Air J says:

    A man among boys at this level. Some college team will get themselves a steal in him. Portland is a great academic school and Reveno is a great coach, so hopefully he ends up at PU. This way his friends and family can see him play when PU visits USF, SCU and SM.

  3. SF_Mikey says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Taylor Johns the last two years. Great high school player who I hope has continued success at the next level. Consummate team player who does what’s needed to help the team win – i.e., not shooting fade away 3s in order to sell Division I scouts on his small forward / 3 position skills.

  4. Big guy 24 says:

    I agree with you SF mikey, Taylor Johns is a good kid and solid ball player who does whatever it takes to help his team win. He brings good energy and a positive attitude to SHC. A red shirt year at a D1 school and he will be ready. SHC will miss this kid after he’s gone this year. He brings more to the table than the normal fan can see, ask his teammates and his coaches. Taylor Johns you have represented SHC with pride and class. Good job kid!

  5. JJ says:

    In the 2nd picture, he is getting fouled 2 times by 2 different players (pulling down on Taylor Johns jersey by the 1st defender, so he cannot levitate & the slap on the wrist by the other defender). I wonder if this was called a foul?

  6. Keep it real says:

    Big guy 24 you are right on point on Taylor one year Of red shirt and someone will be smiling!!!And that will give him one more year of education for free!!! Can’t beat that!!!

  7. Ari Gold says:

    I was hoping JB would do an article like this. So many athletes now seem to beat their chest, yap/get in the opponent’s face, show-off after a great play like a dunk or a block or an and-1. (See El Camino players)… Not Taylor Johns. On Saturday after one of his big putback dunks. he did look opposite way and yell out a big YEAH as he was running back on defense. Ive seen so many SH games this year and Johns gets his dunks. And the best thing is he acts like he’s been there before. He’s more concerned about getting back on defense than lolly-gagging back and celebrating himself after a dunk. Kudos to Taylor and Coach Barbour for playing and teaching basketball/sportsmanship the right way.

    Ive contemplated what Taylor can grow his game to be and I see very similar skillset like Rob Jones (Riordan/St. Marys College)… Both similar size and inside presence/dominance in high school… Jones has made himself into a very good midrange to 19ft perimeter player for the Gaels. I see Taylor having that same progression. I think Taylor is a bit more of a leaper than Jones, so if Taylor can refine his slash to the basket game where it looks more fluid and less “wild” at times, he will be a very decent scorer in college.

    Good luck to Taylor and the rest of the Irish on Saturday. Bring home state title #2!!!

  8. City Lights says:

    Imagine if the two state title game teams were merged into one team. Pratt and James rotating the one. Fox at the 2. A long Jerry Brown at the three. Johns at the four with big ol Kevin Greene at the five. And a bunch of other good players rotating in. Oh man…

    • wcalsf says:

      Interesting take: I’d take the Riordan ’02 State Title Team ’06 Norcal entry of Daniel Cannon at the point; Marquise Kately at the 2; Rob Jones at the three; Jorge Camacho at the 4 and John Tofi at the five. Game over!

      • ARHS Stats says:

        I would start with the 1985 Riordan team.

        Two WCAL Players of the Year: Erik Newman 1985 and Terrence Mullins 1986

        A 6′ 9″ Center in Chris Munk ’86

        I think, I would add in the the 1989 Riordan team.

        Two more WCAL Players of the Year: Ray Kelly 1989 and Dwayne Fontana 1990

        That would be my startinng five, with Dorian Manigo ’90, Ranon Ross ’85, Eric Racklin ’85, Dave Peed ’85, Michael Downing ’89, Percy Fisher ’89, Turaj Smith ’89, Jeff Anthony ’85, and Aron Wise ’89 subing in off the bench.

        I don’t think you could find a better combined team.

        4 of 5 starters are all 6′ 3″ or taller, with more tall player’s on the bench.

        I believe of the 14 players, only 6 are smaller than 6′ 3″ tall and they are almost all guards

        • Ari Gold says:

          How are you leaving Jaha Wilson off this list Pat? No one wanted a rebound more than Jaha.

          • ARHS Stats says:

            This discussion was about combining two teams from the same school into one team.

            Jaha Wilson is one of the top player’s in Riordan history, but he did not have the talent around him that these two teams.

            Jaha would hold down one starting position when you combined his team with any other team, but the other 4 starting player’s from that year would not start and most of the other starters would come from the other team.

            Plus I have a few players who rebounded the ball well on the team I put together.

            Terrence Mullins, Erik Newman, and Dwayne Fontana all grabbed at least 500 rebounds in their careers at Riordan, and all had at least 2 seasons with more than 200 rebounds, and their senior seasons Dwayne and Erik both had over 300 rebounds.

            Erik Newman has the fourth most rebounds in Riordan History, the only players with more rebounds are Jaha Wilson ’93, Robert Jones ’07, and Kevin Restani ’70. Terrence Mullins has the 9th most rebounds in Riordan History, and Dwayne Fontana has the 10th most rebounds in Riordan History.

            There were 5 or 6 other players who grabbed 100 or more rebounds on the teams they played for, which means they averaged between 3 to 5 rebounds per game.

            I looked for teams that could supply 2 or 3 starters, when combined. I wanted to get one of the better points guards Riordan has had over the years, plus I wanted two teams that complimented each other.

            Jaha Wilson’s best team was his Senior year, which was the WCAL Round Robin Co-Champions, but they lost the WCAL Playoff Championship Game to St. Ignatius for the second year in row in 1993, Riordan had come in third in the Round Robin in 1992.
            The 1993 team had on it: Vince Smith and Rashaad Lowry as sophomores, Taryn Washington and Tavio Lucas were the guards, and William Moore was the other forward.

          • ARHS Stats says:

            If you want a team of the Top Individual Player’s in Riordan History.

            You would start with:

            Kevin Restani ’70 as the center
            Jaha Wilson ’93 as the Power Forward
            Marquise Kately ’02 as the Small Forward
            Terrence Mullins ’86 as the Shooting Guard
            Phil Kess ’80 as the Point Guard

            The Subs would include:
            Erik Newman ’85
            Dwayne Fontana ’90
            Elmer Love ’74
            Brett Crawford ’80
            John Tofi ’02
            Wayman Strickland ’88
            Vince Smith ’95
            Robert Jones ’07
            Frank Black ’00
            Joe Lanfranco ’60 [C.A.L. First Team All League] {he, Dennis Smith ’61, and Bob Falco ’60 led Riordan to their first league championship (won CAL Playoffs, Bishop O’Dowd & Serra were the Round Robin Co-Champs)}

            Ray Kelly ’89
            Alton Byrd ’75
            Dorian Manigo ’90
            Denfield Wade ’87
            Reggie Jackson ’87
            Rashaad Lowry ’95
            Ron Nicoletti ’70
            Mike Carson ’57 (778 points in two years) [two time C.A.L. First Team All League]

            Three Point Shooters
            David Benton ’88
            Matt Strauss ’02
            Ivan Dorsey ’10

      • ARHS Stats says:

        I am pretty sure, you mean the 2007 Riordan team, since Camacho was not at Riordan until the 2006-2007 basketball season.

        You have 2 WCAL Players of the Year: Marquise Kately 2002 and Robert Jones 2007 These would be your forwards.

        Remember Camacho did not play a lot of minutes for the 2007 team, because he was in foul trouble and was learning about WCAL defense.

        John Tofi ’02 would be the center

        Daniel Cannon ’08 would be the point guard

        Ryan Bruno ’02 or Logan Shoffner ’07 would be the fifth starter.

        These players would be subing in for this combined team: Josh Vergara ’02, Jorge Camacho ’08, Ameer Walton ’07, Matt Straus ’02, Richie Forslund ’07, Adam Hoffman ’03, Joe Belfrey ’02

      • IC Stars says:

        If all the players that were in the program stayed until 2009, they would have been stacked anyway.

  9. nat says:

    Boy, seems like yesterday when u were a long lanky kid at kipp bay school!! Who couldn’t dribble and chew gum at the same time!!
    Now its all starting to unfold. Taylor,I’ve have seen the work you have put in to make yourself a better player. You have taken every onuce of critism from me and use it to get better. The thing that stands out is that you knew what you had to do to get better and to this day acknowledges that you are not quite there yet!! However, I do see a light at the end on the tunnel.
    I remember last summer you and Ki Ki Moore keeping me at the gym late so you and her can work on your craft. It was well worth it.
    People ride you that you are my son, but they don’t know half the story what we have been through together. But I tell you what, they are right you are my son and you can call on me anytime!! Your family is really proud of you and your mom always tears up when she talks about her “baby”!! My younger son always talk about you and Josh as well as the younger Rebel players treat Josh,Herman,DO,Zach,Jack and yourself like Rock Stars. Be proud that you guys are leaving a lasting effect on everyone in your,school,community, and family!!
    D1 or D2 doesn’t matter to me!! Being a great kid,difference maker,and graduating from college will mean a lot more!! Good luck this weekend!!

Leave a Comment

Comments that advocate violence, racism, or libel, as well as comments featuring profanity will not be permitted. Repeat offenders will have their commenting privileges suspended. All comments must abide by our Commenting Code of Conduct.