Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Sumner Star Takes Long Road Back to St. Louis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Sumner Star Takes Long Road Back to St. Louis

Article excerpt

Chuckie Johnson took the road less traveled.

Three years ago, the Sumner basketball star left high school with his diploma and laden with doubts about whether he'd ever fulfill his dream, to play Division I basketball.

But to get to Division I, Johnson needed to take the ACT, something he said intimidated him. His first try at the test was the last one given.

"I didn't pass the test," he said.

That test, that is. Since then, Johnson has roamed wide. Johnson went to State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., and then to Creighton University.

"But it all turned out well," Johnson said, reflecting Wednesday on his travails. "I'm getting a good education. I'm doing what I want to do."

Like Creighton basketball, Johnson has arrived.

When No. 5 seed Creighton (14-14, 9-9) plays No. 4 Southwest Missouri State (15-11, 11-7) on Saturday in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Johnson will start at forward.

He's scoring nine points and grabbing 6.5 rebounds a game, including five "double doubles" this season. He had a season-high 18 points and 11 rebounds in an 81-75 overtime win over SMSU on Jan. 27.

"November and December were kind of tough for him," Creighton coach Dana Altman said. "But he's really hit his stride in January and February. He really has been `Mr. Consistent' during the conference season."

Creighton was 7-19 last season, and the Bluejays hadn't won more than nine games since 1990-91, when they were regular season champs and won the MVC tourney.

To end the tailspin, Altman decided not to renew the scholarships of four players and hit the recruiting trail.

"Last year was tough on everybody," said Altman, a former Kansas State coach. "It wasn't any fun for our fans. And it wasn't any fun for the players. Then you bring in a new staff and hope to change things and we didn't have any fun either. It was a long year for all of us. It was the first year I had to go through something like that. I didn't turn to beating my dogs or my kids or anything. …

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