Rockford Eisenhower 8th grader getting some statewide attention


ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Malachi Johnson is an eighth grader on the basketball team at Eisenhower Middle School. At a shade over six feet tall he’s significantly taller than most of the other players on the team, but that’s not what stands out the most about him. What does is his ability to dribble with his head up which allows him to spot open teammates. It’s the way he communicates with his teammates verbally. And it’s his understanding of how to play the game.

“Malachi’s (best quality) is basketball IQ,” says Eisenhower coach Melvin James. “(Plus) He’s physical. He’s very physical for an eighth grader. His skill level is really good for an eighth grader.”

Because of those qualities Johnson plays point guard.

“I like to orchestrate the offense and get my teammates involved,” says Johnson. “Make sure everybody eats.”

Johnson’s father Lamont Johnson is also an assistant coach at Eisenhower. Back in the day he was a hoops junkie at Chicago basketball powerhouse Westinghouse High School. He even appeared in the movie “Hoop Dreams” as an assistant coach.

“One thing I love about watching Malachi is as a coach I love how he runs the floor,” said Lamont Johnson. “He can play the floor from the one to the five (point guard to center). Some kids can only play one or two positions. This kid he lays it out and he can play every single position.”

Johnson played forward over the summer for the Elite Youth Basketball team Mean Streets out of Chicago. That team won the 13U National Championship.

“It was a great experience playing with my guys just having a fun time,” said Johnson.

Johnson is ranked as one of the top eighth grade basketball players in the State of Illinois and Northwest Indiana by Jr. Hoops Elite. Johnson has been passionate about basketball since he was a toddler.

“Ever since I was three I remember my dad put the ball in my hand and said, you’re going to do this. Ever since then I just kept on going with it.” “I loved it right away.”

Lamont Johnson recalls one of the first times he saw natural basketball ability in his son. “He had to be about five or six years old and before I had practice Malachi stood up under the rim and he shot the ball like that (using a natural shooting motion). Most kids have to take the ball and they have to throw it up there at that age. I watched him shoot the ball in and I looked (with a look of amazement)…he just loved the game!”

Johnson says his favorite NBA player is Derrick Rose. Johnson’s goal for now is to help Eisenhower win a state championship. Eisenhower will tip off it’s season this Saturday.

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