The world is learning something that local basketball followers have known for years: Keldon Johnson can flat out play.
The former Park View HS standout, who went on to star at the University of Kentucky before being selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 29th pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, has made the most of the league restart in Orlando, Florida after a shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legendary San Antonio coach Greg Popovich is using the final games of the 2020 regular season to check out some of his younger players and Johnson has not disappointed.
He had the best game of his career last Wednesday night in a 132-126 loss to the Denver Nuggets by scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds in the bubble in Orlando. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, going 6 for 6 from the field in the stanza, and finished 7 of 10 from the field including hitting both of his trey attempts.
“He’s a monster competitor,” Popovich said. “Learning more every day, getting confidence in shooting, he grinds it well. He hits the board and plays hard on D. He’s a fine young player.”
Popovich told the NBA pool reporters after a game on July 28 that he enjoyed Johnson’s high energy on the court.
“They still have mustangs out West?” Popovich jokingly said. “He’s one of those kind of guys. He’s kind of wild and very energetic, very aggressive, takes no prisoners, sticks his nose in, likes contact. All-in-all, he’s a very competitive individual.”
Johnson scored nine points and added a rebound in 26 minutes of action on Sunday in the Spurs’ 122-113 win over New Orleans.
He spent most of his rookie season playing in the G-League with the Austin Spurs before being called up by the parent club in early March.
Johnson also caught the eye of NBA superstar Kevin Durant over the past few weeks.
“You talk about scorers, this guy is it. He’s athletic, nice with the right,” said Durant. “It’s hard to stop him going right.”
Keldon is the son of Chris and Rochelle Johnson of Brodnax.