Watching Johnson break onto the national scene in the 1979 NCAA championship game fueled the belief by players all over America that they needn't be pigeon-holed into certain positions simply because they were short or tall or strong.
You can count Plymouth High School senior Mack Mercer as one of those players who isn't limiting himself to just one place on a basketball court because of his one differentiating trait.
“I've always been the tallest guy,” Mercer said. “I've actually had (growth) spurts, but I've always been tall.”
Mercer will join a horde of talent today on the basketball courts at Ben Davis High School as the 11th annual Top 100 Showcase, which features the best high players in the state, begins at 2 p.m.
Mercer stands nearly 6-foot-10 in shoes, yet during games, he's often drifting along the three-point line waiting to catch a pass and drain a long jumper.
But that's not always the case.
“If my shot is not falling, I'll try to go to the block more and get things started that way,” Mercer said. “It's a simple thing of balance.”
Fortunately for Mercer, implementing that “balance” is a viable option for him. He possesses ability, agility and stability.
He has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, the agility to drive the ball, and the stability to hold his position on the block and score with a variety of post moves.
“It just depends on the matchup and who is guarding me,” Mercer explained of deciding where to attack offensively from. "If I have a guy guarding me that is my size, I'll probably try to take him more off of the dribble. But if I have a guy who's smaller, then it might be a mismatch then I definitely like to post up.”
The fact that Mercer is not only willing to post up often but also enjoys doing so is somewhat refreshing in this day and age when no one seemingly wants to go inside and bang with the big boys.
“If you can get closer to the basket, it is way easier to score,” Mercer said. “That's the best shot on the floor.”
Mercer's versatility, athleticism and size are the reasons why he is spending his summer sifting through NCAA Division I scholarship offers. He has Boston College, Indiana State and Belmont atop his list of preferences (not necessarily in that order), but several others are trying to get in the race for his services.
Unlike many high school players, Mercer doesn't really alter his game from the high school season to the summer circuit. He credits fourth-year Pilgrim coach Ryan Bales for designing an offense that takes advantage of everything Mercer can do.
Mercer helped Plymouth to a 21-4 record this past season as it advanced to the IHSAA Class 3A regional championship before falling to Andrean (70-60). He averaged 19 points per game, grabbed nearly nine rebounds per night and blocked an astounding 75 shots.
“Luckily, Coach Bales lets me roam and play the perimeter,” Mercer said. “But in school ball, a lot of the guys aren't as tall, so I really like to get my dirty work done in the paint and score that way.”The Fort Wayne area will be well represented at the showcase today. The following players will participate: Mason Coverstone (Columbia City, junior), Cole Hartman (DeKalb, junior), D.J. McCall (Concordia Lutheran, senior) and Justin Mitchell (Wayne, senior).
Last year, coaches from 64 colleges attended the event to evaluate the prospects.
ONLINEFor complete coverage of today's Top 100 Showcase, follow Tom Davis and Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at Tom101010 and pdiprimio, respectively.
Davis will provide an ongoing blog throughout the event at News-Sentinel.com with updates on recruiting, evaluations and more insight into the prep and college basketball scene.