By Tom Ballato
It is every kids dream to play under the bright lights of Cameron Indoor Stadium and play in one of the biggest rivalries in college sports. For this next prospect, his journey was a little different. He didn’t play high school basketball, but was a standout baseball player that got an invite to pitch in front of pro scouts who considered him for the Major League Basketball Draft.
Patrick Johnson came to Duke from Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia.
Johnson originally planned to play baseball at Duke, but decided against it. “I made the choice to spend my freshman year as a student instead. I decided to try and walk on the basketball team the next year and was fortunate enough to earn a spot.”
After a year as a walk-on, Johnson earned a scholarship from coach Mike Krzyzewski in his sophomore year. “It was a complete surprise, but obviously a huge honor. My biggest response I remember was pride and thankfulness, I’m still incredibly grateful to the coaching staff for that recognition.”
As a member of the Duke Basketball team, Johnson was a part of runs to multiple Sweet 16s and a Final Four appearance. When he spoke about some of his fondest members at Duke, he said, “Our Final Four run in 2004 was really memorable even though it didn’t end like we wanted. Some of my other favorite moments are Chris Duhon’s coast to coast layup to beat UNC in 2004 and Sean Dockery’s halfcourt shot to beat Virginia Tech in 2005.”
Appearing in 53 career games for the Blue Devils, Johnson came off the bench in a reserve role. He still stays in touch with some former teammates Lee Melchionni and Ross Perkins, whom both live in Atlanta. Johnson also remains in touch with Doug Miller, a former team manager.
Since graduating Duke, Johnson has coached high school and college basketball. “I’ve been teaching and coaching basketball at a lot of different levels. I just got the job this spring at my old high school (Grady) in Atlanta as Athletic Director and Head Boys Basketball Coach.”
Grady High School has been a part of Johnson’s identity. “Grady was a huge part of making me who I am, so to be able to go back and be a part of it again in a leadership role is a really exciting opportunity.”
When asked about what he loves most about coaching, Johnson replied, “As far as coaching goes, I just love leading a team, competing together, helping young people develop, and building lasting relationships.”
Johnson is ready to lead his former high school’s basketball program this year. He’s learned from one of the best coaches in basketball and when asked what advice he has learned from Coach K that he instills while coaching, Johnson replied, “It sounds simple, but the importance of playing hard, playing with passion, and playing for something bigger than yourself are things I took from my time at Duke that I try and pass on to my teams now.”