SOUTHFIELD — Benton Harbor’s Carlos Johnson was an all-state basketball star as a freshman and a state championship game hero as a sophomore. As a senior, the player known as “Scooby” is the best in Michigan.
Johnson was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball on Monday. The award is given by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and the Detroit Free Press to the top senior boys high school basketball player in the state.
“I was kind of speechless for a few seconds,” Johnson said upon being informed of his award. “You only get one opportunity to win, so I was just blessed with the opportunity to win.”
Johnson is the 40th recipient of the award, and the third from Benton Harbor, joining Wilson Chandler (2005) and Anthony “Pig” Miller (1990).
Chandler tweeted his congratulations to Johnson, saying “Congratulations bro! Helluva high school career. Mr. Basketball was just the icing on the cake.”
“There’s a lot of people who came from the area that didn’t get a chance to be Mr. Basketball,” Johnson said. “I’m just honored and blessed to be one of the three names.”
“It’s big for the city, it’s big for the community,” Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling said. “Benton Harbor’s a basketball city. Everybody back home is very excited, just like when we won the state championship. Carlos represents the city of Benton Harbor and the west side of the state.
“Pig Miller and Wilson Chandler, Carlos looks up to those guys and they’re always mentoring him and giving him advice. I just think it’s great for Benton Harbor to have three Mr. Basketballs.”
Johnson finished first in the voting with 2,949 points, ahead of Flint Beecher’s Jalen Terry (2,760). Lorne Bowman of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was third with 2,312.
Johnson’s biggest on-court moment remains the 2018 Class B state championship game, when his 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime gave Benton Harbor a 65-64 victory over Grand Rapids Catholic Central, its first state title since 1964-65.
His dominance was hardly restricted to that season, however. Johnson will soon be named all-state for a fourth straight time, and Benton Harbor is 91-9 over his four seasons at the school. As a freshman he led the Tigers to the state semifinals, and Benton Harbor was ranked No. 1 in Division 2 when the Michigan High School Athletic Association suspended this season’s tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sterling saw a potential Mr. Basketball long before Johnson took the court for the Tigers.
“I would say when he was in fourth grade,” Sterling said. “He played Jump Start basketball and he always dominated, every time and he played up (against older players). I knew we had to make sure he would stay with us and be a student at Benton Harbor High School.
“He led us to the final four his freshman year, sophomore year he won the state championship for us. If we get a chance to resume this year, I think he’ll win another state championship for us,” Sterling added, acknowledging that the hope of finishing the season looks “bleak” after Monday’s news of a statewide stay-at-home order.
Johnson’s next stop on his journey will be Butler University in Indianapolis, where he’ll play college basketball next season.
“Butler felt like home to me,” Johnson said. “It was a great fit for my family and myself. I just see myself doing good things there.”