When the season starts the goal for every Division I collegiate basketball player is to make the NCAA Tournament, also known as “March Madness.” That dream has become a reality for the Oregon Ducks, who were awarded a spot in the 68-team field after finishing first in the Pac-12 Conference standngs and 20-6 overall.
One of the Ducks should be familiar to anyone in the Palisades, Will Johnson, who was an All-City player at Palisades High and won the Post Cup Award in 2016 as the school’s outstanding senior athlete, sharing that year’s honor with soccer star Kaitlyn Parcell.
Oregon is seeded No. 7 in the West Region and faces No. 10 VCU in the first round Saturday in Indianapolis. The winner will advance to play No. 2 Iowa or No. 15 Grand Canyon on Monday.
Johnson, a 6-foot-1 guard, has played in five games this season, making one of his three field goal attempts and two of his three free throws for a total of four points in 12 minutes of action. He has three rebounds, one steal and one assist.
Johnson was injured during the preseason and did not play as a redshirt sophomore last season.
As a redhsirt freshman in 2018-19 he saw action in nine games, grabbing his first career rebound in the Pac-12 title game against Washington. He made his regular season debut against Portland State.
He redshirted in 2017-18.
Johnson was named most outstanding player in the Western League his senior year at Pali High, also earning first team All-League and first-team All-City honors under interim coach Donzell Hayes. He was a member of Middlebrooks Academy club basketball team and attended Juco Elite Camp.
Johnson is following in the footsteps of his grandfather Marques Johnson and his father Kris Johnson, both of whom won City Player of the Year honors at Crenshaw High and are the only father-son duo to win an NCAA basketball championship at the same school (UCLA). Marques went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA and was a five-time All-Star while Kris played professionally for eight seasons in Russia, Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon and China.
Johnson, who lived in the Highlands wore No. 54 at Palisades— the now-retired jersey worn by his grandfather and father at UCLA. “Will the Thrill” averaged 23 points a game and led the team in scoring, three-pointers and steals as a senior. He opted to do a post-grad year while honing his skills after graduating in 2016.
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