Ex-Cat Johnson inks with Salem

Paul AdkinsSports Editor

April 19, 2013

Logan High School hasn’t forgotten about Keaton Johnson.

Neither has Salem International University.

The former Logan basketball standout signed a national letter of intent with Salem on Wednesday morning at LHS.

Johnson, a 2012 Logan High School graduate, sat out last season with an injury to his achilles heel and stayed home to attend Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.

He’ll be headed up north to Salem in August to play for the Division II Tigers.

Johnson said he’s excited to have the opportunity to play again after sitting out a season.

“I stayed out for a year and stayed around here to help my family a little bit. I wanted to go off and play ball but I decided not to,” Johnson said. “Over the time I stayed out I hurt my achilles and thought that I tore it but luckily I didn’t. It took awhile but I was able to come back from that. I’ve come back stronger and better than I was.”

Johnson, who averaged around 13 points a game for the 2012 Wildcats, was a prolific 3-point shooter. He hopes to be a long range specialist at Salem.

“That’s what they got me for,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-3 guard. “But I’ve expanded my game and I can do a lot more.”

Johnson said he will be a two-guard or three-guard for the Tigers.

“I’ll be the shooting guard but I’ll do whatever they need me to do,” he said.

Salem International University, a former member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will be heading into a new league this fall as the Tigers are set to join the brand new Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

Soon-to-be former WVIAC schools Alderson-Broaddus, Davis & Elkins and Ohio Valley are also set to join the 12-team league with other schools from Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The WVIAC, one of the nation’s oldest collegiate athletic conferences which dates back to 1924, is breaking up at the end of this school year.

Salem’s basketball team, led by head coach Randy Unger, went 10-16 last season. One of the assistant coaches is former Logan basketball standout Jeff Williamson, a 2011 Salem graduate and member of Logan’s 2005 Class AA state championship team.

“The program is real good at Salem,” Johnson said. “The classes are real good and they make it to where you are not overworked on classes. I’m real excited that I can focus a lot of playing ball and going to classes. I want to get a degree.”

Johnson was a sophomore member of Logan’s 2010 Class AAA state championship team, which was led by Noah Cottrill and Paul Williamson, which both went to WVU briefly.

Johnson was also a member of the 2011 and 2012 Logan teams which played in the state tourney.

“It was a real fun time here and I love Logan,” Johnson said. “Mark Hatcher, my coach, will always be my coach. He’s a great coach. I love Logan because this is where I grew up playing ball.”

Johnson said it was always a great experience to play prep basketball at Logan’s atmosphere-rich Willie Akers Arena in front of all of the big crowds.

“I love the field house,” Johnson said. “It will always hold a lot of great memories. I will never forget it.”

Logan coach Mark Hatcher said Johnson will fit in just fine at Salem.

“He practiced a lot with us this year and he’s been in the gym more so working on his individual game this past year than maybe he had in a long time,” Hatcher said. “He’s improved in a lot of ways that I think will help him at the next level. I think Salem is going to get a great player and a great shooter. The whole state knew about him at the end of the year last year and knew what a great shooter that he was. He’s got great size. He needs to work on his strength but he knows that. He’s going to play for Jeff Williamson, an assistant coach there, and I look for him to have a good career at Salem.”

At the college level having good outside shooting is a must and Johnson hopes to make the Tigers better from the 3-point arc. Last season, Salem shot only 36 percent from 3-point land as a team and will look to do better.

“He shot probably the highest 3-point percentage that we’ve ever had here at Logan for a season when he shot 48 percent from the 3-point line last year. That’s incredible,” Hatcher said of Johnson.

As far as his studies, Johnson said he remains undecided on a major.