KNIGHTSTOWN – Everything was stacked in Hickory's favor. The Huskers were playing in their own gym (so to speak). They had the advantage of rolling out a lineup that included the 2012 Indiana Mr. Basketball (Gary Harris), an Indiana recruit (Jeremy Hollowell), a Notre Dame recruit (Austin Burgett) and the state's most feared shooter (Butler recruit Kellen Dunham).
However, what Hickory didn't have were the players that seemed to relish pressure like the less-heralded Terhune squad did. Or at least enough of them in any event.
In the final minutes Terhune needed toughness, defense and an ability to make plays to overtake the more prominent names and guys like RJ Hunter, Adam Botts, Nick Osborne, Glenn Robinson III, and Purdue recruit Ronnie Johnson stepped up and carried Terhune to a rallying 121-116 victory in the 2012 Hoosiers' Reunion All-Star Classic at Knightstown.
In the case of Johnson, it would be easier to list what the 6-foot point guard didn't do to help Terhune, rather than ramble on about the drives, the passes, the defense, the encouragement for his teammates, the perimeter jumpers, and so on, and so on. It's safe to say that Boilermaker men's basketball coach Matt Painter would've been proud, but he wouldn't be surprised by the play of Johnson, because he has already seen similar exploits in Ronnie's older brother, Terone, who will be a junior this season in West Lafayette.
The younger Johnson didn't worry about any pressure on Friday and he never coward from the thought of following in his brother's footsteps with the Boilermakers. He simply wanted an opportunity to run a college offense and he'll get that opportunity beginning about five minutes after he unpacks his bags at Purdue.
“I thought with (former Purdue guard) Lewis Jackson (graduating), I was going to be able to come in and fit in,” the younger Johnson said. “I'm going to try and do a little more than what (Jackson) did.”
Obviously, Johnson doesn't shy from placing high expectations on himself either.
Painter has a couple of combo guards for this upcoming season in Terone Johnson and incoming freshman Rapheal Davis, who can run the offense for spurts. But in Ronnie Johnson, there is little doubt who will get a first, second and possibly every look after that to man the point.
“That's what I was looking for from day one in my recruitment,” Johnson said.
On Friday, Johnson showed an ability to score (he averaged 22 points per game as a senior at highly-successful North Central High School in Indianapolis), but he knows what Painter wants to see from a freshman.
“I'm going to have to work on my defense and get stronger basically,” Johnson said.
Johnson isn't weak, but he's not Purdue-strong as of yet. He's in the weight room a lot and trying to “get big.”
He will be part of the Indiana All-Star squad that battles Kentucky this week. He and his teammates will open the week with an exhibition game against the Indiana Junior All-Stars in Seymour on Monday, followed by another exhibition game on Wednesday at Pendleton Heights.
The top Hoosier players will then face Kentucky on Friday in Louisville and wrap up the week on Saturday at Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis against Kentucky. That will be the final act of Johnson's high school career and he'll report for duty at Purdue shortly thereafter. And he can't wait.
“I'm trying to take Purdue far,” Johnson said. “We're going to shock (the state of) Indiana and I'm waiting on it.”