IKM-Manning’s Jared Johnson is no stranger to the pressure of being depended on — just not for basketball.
The senior is the starting quarterback for the football team and an all-Western Iowa Conference selection as a junior in baseball, and he finished 16th in the high jump at state track last year. But deferring to a number of productive seniors on the basketball team for the past two seasons has given him a perspective that he wasn’t used to: role player.
He was third on the team with a 9.4 points per game scoring average as a junior, but Johnson has upped his game in conjunction with the departure of Jon Brandt and Ben Wegner, the two leading scorers from last year’s 16-7 team. Now with the green light to orchestrate the offense, he is averaging 20 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals on a 7-4 Wolves squad.
“I think Jared kind of knew that he was going to have to step up in all areas, from scoring to rebounding to assists and steals,” IKM-Manning coach Keith Wagner said. “But we never put any pressure on him, and he never put any pressure on himself. He just knew he had to step up.”
The Wolves graduated seven significant contributors off last year’s team, and his coach says the 6-foot-1 Johnson has led by example.
“I think he’s just infectious,” Wagner said. “I think you want to be around Jared when you’re competing; you want to play with him because he’s unselfish and he has a way of just pulling everybody along with him.”
One of those players whom Johnson has pulled along with him is junior Alex Lingle. Lingle is second on the team at 15.7 points a contest after averaging 3.0 points as a sophomore.
With Johnson playing either guard position and the 6-foot-2 Lingle in the post, the inside-outside combination has caused fits for opposing defenses.
“I think we both know how each other plays and we have good chemistry on the court together,” Johnson said of Lingle. “I think we fit well together.”
Johnson and his coach point to his mid-range game as a strength and his perimeter shooting as a weakness. He’s shooting just 19.0 percent from 3 after shooting 28.1 percent last year.
Shoring up his 3-point shooting would make Johnson difficult to stop with his ability to drive, pull up or find open teammates.
IKM-Manning still has all its goals in front of it with a 5-3 record in the Western Iowa Conference, and Johnson sees a desire from the whole team that is matching up with his competitive spirit.
“I think everyone on the team works hard all the time and hustles,” Johnson said. “That’s how you need to play the game if you want to be good.”