Taylor Johns: More than just a block party

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

He’s hard to miss.

 Standing 6-feet-7-inches tall, he practically intimidates anyone beside him. Forward sophomore Taylor Johns can often be seen pumping up his teammates on court as well as dropping jaw-breaking dunks and monster blocks. Even though Johns is intense on the court, he is a sweetheart off of it. Johns can often be seen with his teammates or friends, roaming the sidewalks of campus with a wide smile on his face.

 I had the opportunity to sit down with one of UCR’s biggest stars as he was getting treatment on his left arm for UCR’s Thursday victory over the UC Davis Aggies. I was nervous as I approached Johns, but his warm presence made me feel welcomed. Johns explained: “I’m the nicest person you’ll ever meet on this campus, ever. If you want to say hi, you can say hi, you can take pictures and everything. Just talk.”

 Coming off an injury-plagued freshman campaign, Johns came into this season hungry for redemption. Johns doubled his point average for the 2013-2014 season to eight compared to 4.6 last season and contributed 71 blocks this season. Not only that, but he has led Riverside in scoring and rebounding for multiple games throughout the season. The sophomore also is currently number one in the conference in terms of blocks (42) and is fifth for most rebounds per game (8.1).

In what went down as the largest comeback in UCR history on Jan. 16, 2014, Johns led the Highlanders with 22 points, including a phenomenal reverse dunk against UC Davis. Hundreds of students were tweeting and cheering for Johns’ play to be on SportsCenter’s Top 10. Murmurs around the Student Recreation Center began to float all over as excited students waited in anticipation to see if Johns would be featured on ESPN’s flagship program, which he eventually was. With a smile on his face, Johns expressed his gratitude toward fans’ determination: “I feel good, it was a good play. It just was a good basketball play, everybody wants to be on SportsCenter, so I guess it was pretty cool.”

 Johns is currently undeclared, but he wants to study psychology. He explains how he would specifically like to work with kids as he loves to play with his nieces and nephews. “I want to redirect kids into the right path,” he said. Growing up in a tough neighborhood, Johns encountered several obstacles, but was successful in obtaining a scholarship to study at UCR. Johns would like to play basketball professionally, but if things don’t go as planned, his backup plan is to make a difference through the profession of psychology. He feels that he can relate to children who are experiencing the same obstacles he once faced and motivate them to keep pushing forward.

 After a long day of school and practice, Johns enjoys relaxing at home. He explained how there is nothing better than sitting on the couch and watching television with great company. He enjoys watching shows on Disney Channel, but prefers to watch SpongeBob on Nickelodeon or SportsCenter. If he isn’t watching TV, he enjoys listening to music or talking with friends.

 Getting his head back in the game, Johns stated: “We know this is an important game, everyone has the same mindset that we have to win.” By having the same mentality, the Highlanders were able to achieve their goal of taking the victory against UC Davis once again and becoming the eighth seed. Securing their place in the conference, the Highlanders now prepare for the Big West Conference quarterfinals that will take place on March 14 at the Honda Center.

The next time you see Taylor Johns dominating the floor with his jaw-dropping dunks and intimidating defensive play, don’t forget that he’s not the bully that you see on the court, but the nicest guy you’ll ever meet on campus.

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