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Senior Salute: Gibson Johnson

Perseverance can make up for some shortcomings. Gibson Johnson is proof of that with the University of Hawai’i basketball team.

Undersized but undeterred, Johnson has fulfilled a needed role as the starting center for the Rainbow Warriors for the past two seasons. His final two home games in a Hawai’i uniform will take place this week.

The Warriors will host Long Beach State on Thursday, and then Johnson and fellow senior Mike Thomas will be honored on “Senior Night” Saturday, when the team hosts UC Irvine. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“The Senior Night here is awesome,” Johnson said. “People show out, they show a lot of love and that’s really special to us, knowing how much they appreciate the hard we’ve put in.”

Johnson, who is listed at 6 feet 8 and 220 pounds, transferred to Hawai’i from Salt Lake Community College (Utah) in 2016, and has played in all 55 games since. He has started 54 of those games, mostly as the de facto center. Although he is built more for the power forward spot, he has often been assigned to defend the opposing teams’ biggest players during his two seasons at UH.

More often than not, Johnson has held his own in the low post. Through his two seasons at Hawai’i, he is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also has an overall field goal percentage of .520. With some favorable shooting in the upcoming games, Johnson could finish in the top 10 for career shooting percentage among individual players at UH (the current 10th place spot is held by John Penebacker at .522).

Johnson has also gained some recognition for being the second oldest player in NCAA Division I basketball this season. At 26, he finds himself practicing and playing alongside and against some players who were still in elementary or middle school when he graduated from high school.

“There’s nothing really you can do about the age factor,” he said. “Obviously I’m older. I don’t think the guys really care, and I don’t care either. I’m just happy to be here and happy to be playing basketball and be in this moment. With more experience, guys maybe look at me as an older brother, but these guys are my family and I loved playing with them.”

Johnson graduated from Viewmont High in Utah in 2010, then served a two-year church mission in Brazil. After returning to Utah, he had no offers to play college basketball. Various circumstances led him to Salt Lake CC in 2014, and he blossomed into a legitimate Division I prospect.

That same perseverance has helped him academically. At Salt Lake CC, his intention was to major in Business Administration. However, many of the credits he earned in junior college did not transfer to UH, so he changed his major to Communications, and took extra classes to make up for his non-transferable credits.

Through it all, he remained on target to graduate this May. “Academic side has been pretty rocky, but I’m excited to graduate,” he said.

Johnson said he would like to continue playing basketball professionally, but realizes there is still a task to be completed this season.

“We just have to keep playing with that toughness and that grit that we found on the road (last) week,” he said. “We made a big step in the right direction and playing with that energy and that passion is going to help us win a lot of games.”

Johnson added that he is “super grateful” for the opportunity he was given to play NCAA Division I basketball, particularly because of the unique path he took to get there.

“It’s been a long run, it started from just a dream and me playing basketball at a rec center down the road from my house,” he said. “Just working hard and sticking to it, being positive about the situation. I was excited to see what could happen from that very first opportunity that I got and to say that I’m here playing in Hawai’i is pretty amazing.”

HAWAI’I (15-10, 6-6 Big West) vs. LONG BEACH STATE (13-15, 7-5 Big West)
When:
Thursday, Feb. 22, 7:00 p.m. HT
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on Spectrum Sports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KPUA on the Big Island, KTOH on Kaua’i, and KNWJ in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Audio Webcast: ESPN1420AM.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: Ticket Information: Lower Level – $30 for all seats; Upper Level (prices vary by section) – $18 or $20 for adults, $16 or $18 for senior citizens (65-older), $5 or $7 for students (ages 4 to high school). UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking is $6.

2 Comments

  1. Gib has been a good teammate and has been great at finding ways to accomplish things. He has been a winner and played hard for the Bows. But he hasn’t been to the dance. Let’s get the wins when it counts and get this team to the dance.
    Go Bows!

  2. It sometimes amazes me how Gib gets his shots to go in against bigger guys who can jump higher. Artie Wilson always says Gib is the old guy at the YMCA gym who keep schooling the younger guys because he knows how to play the game with experience.

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