West Xtra: OLSH rides senior standout to playoffs

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A year ago, Cameron Johnson already was an integral part of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School boys basketball team.

As the 2012-13 season was winding down, Johnson was a 6-foot-3 guard, averaging 16 points a game for a Chargers team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class A tournament.

Johnson is back for his senior season, and he's scoring 27.6 points a game for a team that is on track to advance to the WPIAL Class A tournament with an overall record of 15-5 and a Section 1-A record of 7-2 after Tuesday's 79-63 victory against Western Beaver.

Why is Johnson averaging nearly 12 more points a game this season?

Well, that's what sometimes happens when a player grows 4 inches in less than a year.

Johnson, a Moon resident, is still playing guard for the Chargers, ranked No. 4 among WPIAL Class A teams by the Post-Gazette. And those defenders -- who in some cases were able to look Johnson in the eye when they were defending him last season -- are now looking up at him as he still fires from the outside.

He is, however, just as likely to drive aggressively to the basket and secure some rebounds. He still relishes the chance to find open teammates when he draws double coverage from opponents.

"We kept him at point guard," said Mike Rodriguez, who is in his sixth season as Chargers coach. "Being taller has helped his game as he can now see over the defenses better. And, he's doing a better job of attacking the basket and finishing his drives."

Johnson, whose older brother, Aaron, was a standout at Moon Area High School (2011 graduate) and now plays at Clarion University, said he wasn't surprised with the growth spurt he experienced, and he said he's not finished growing.

"My dad is 6-8, and my mom is 5-11, so I kind of expected it," Johnson said.

Johnson believes the rugged section schedule OLSH faced with two games apiece against top-ranked Lincoln Park and Western Beaver, which features the WPIAL's leading scorer in Nick Miller, will help when the Chargers begin the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

"When we play those teams, it's like being in a playoff game," he said.

Rodriguez said his team's games this week against Western Beaver and against cross-town rival Cornell on Friday will be key in determining the Chargers' playoff seeding.

"We really can't look ahead," he said. "This is going to be a big week for seeding, and it's going to have a big impact on the season."

What the coach can look forward to is Johnson's future.

"He's getting interest from a lot of colleges, including some Ivy League schools," he said. "What's most impressive about Cameron is that he is focused on his academics, and he's improved every time he steps on the court.

"He's still growing into his body, and he works on his game a lot. I think a college team might want him to be a [shooting] guard or a [small] forward."

Johnson remains focused on his season, but acknowledges that he's received plenty of inquiries from colleges. Schools that have expressed interest in him are Stanford, Virginia, George Mason of the Atlantic 10, Bryant University of the Northeast Conference, Marist College of the MAAC, and Ivy League members Pennsylvania and Columbia.

"I'm not in any rush right now," said Johnson, who is undecided about what he will study in college. But, he said, his options are wide open. "I do well in all of my subjects."

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