By Clay Whittington
It finally happened.
En route to claiming the championship at last weekend’s Clear Creek tournament, a milestone was met during the event’s opening day.
Before celebrating the title or being named all-tournament most valuable player, Belton senior T.J. Johnson entrenched himself as one of the best to every play for the Tigers, recording the 2,000th point of his career.
Although the accomplishment is a rare feat for any player, it was the forward’s focus long before his career began.
“I’ve been wanting to reach this point since middle school,” Johnson said. “I heard that I had a shot to be a freshman on the varsity team, and that would give me four years, so it was possible.
“I just decided to go for it.”
Johnson was Belton’s leading scorer in every game of the tournament, improving his averages as the pressure intensified.
During the first two games of pool play, Johnson finished with 17 points in a pair of victories, guiding the Tigers to a 76-36 win against Kyle Lehman before beating Santa Fe 65-41. Then, Belton defeated Austin St. Andrews 82-51 and Pflugerville Hendrickson 63-50 behind a pair of 27-point performances from Johnson to round out pool play.
In the championship game against the host Eagles, Johnson exploded for 34 points in a 69-55 outcome.
The significant progression is nothing new to Belton head coach Jason Fossett, though.
“He was the best player on the team when I got here four years ago,” Fossett said, “and he still is now.
“But every year, T.J. has gotten better, and the most impressive thing to me is that he has gotten better while people kept learning about him. Everybody we’ve played has known that he’s our guy, but he’s still improving.”
And had it not been for a worldwide pandemic, the 2,000-point plateau would have most likely already been eclipsed.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak last year, tournaments were not conducted, robbing teams of multiple games and taking potentially hundreds of points from Johnson, who averaged more than 20 points last season. Teams typically play three tournaments each season with each normally allowing for four to six games per program.
Regardless, the longtime ambition was achieved.
“It really means a lot,” Johnson said, “because ever since I was little, I’ve seen people be able to score 1,000 points. It just became a goal for me to get 2,000.
“So, that was just a big moment for me personally.”
Now, Johnson’s attention can be altered as he looks to achieve another goal by guiding the Tigers into the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Fossett, however, believes the moment should be savored.
“That is a ton of points,” Fossett said. “I’d have to go back, really dig and do some research to find the other Belton players – if there are any – who scored 2,000 points in their careers, but that just shows how good he has been consistently since his freshman year until now.
“He’s just a great kid with a great work ethic, and he’s everything you want in a leader.”