Varsity Q&A: Northeast boys basketball’s Shamar Johnson nears school rebounding records

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Northeast’s Shamar Johnson pulls down a rebound between Old Mill’s Brian Poore, left and Luke Fletcher, right, in the third quarter of a game on Jan. 10. Johnson has sites set on grabbing the program's single-season and career rebounding records.

Shamar Johnson, a 6-foot-4 center and junior at Northeast, smiles when he looks at a well-lit glass case in his school’s gymnasium hallway. Inside are numerous plaques commemorating achievements by athletes in the school, but it’s the basketballs he’s gazing at with a gleam in his eyes. Each has a name printed in its center. Johnson eyes two in particular belonging to John McKinley, who has owned the Eagles’ all-time career rebounding (711) and single-season rebounding (323) records for almost 40 years.

In just two seasons, Johnson is close to breaking one and on his way to another. With 253 rebounds this winter, he’s currently just 70 boards away from doing claiming the single-season mark. And with four guaranteed games left to play — as well as a hope for quite a few more playoff contests beyond that — Johnson is confident he’ll see his name on rubber and under lights soon. He has 454 rebounds in his career as of Monday.


Johnson recently spoke to The Capital about his achievements: (Editor’s note: some questions and answers have been edited for clarity.)

Did you know you were going for a record when you started this year?


No, I had no idea there was a record for it until they told me that I could really go for it, that I was getting close to it.

How much time did you get as a freshman?

I didn’t play basketball much my freshman year. I went to St. Mary’s; I played one game.

So coming into Northeast, what were your goals? Sure, some kids go in like, ‘I want to break a record,’ but usually kids get four years. So, what were yours?

Coming into Northeast, I just wanted to hoop around and play basketball. That’s all my mind was on. doing what I love to do.

What did that feel like when your coach told you, ‘Hey, did you know you’re close to this record right now?’

It made me feel great. I felt really, really excited. That’s a good thing, getting my name inside of there. When I get older, I can bring my kids and say, ‘Yeah, I accomplished this.’ And I could feel really proud of myself.

Has rebounding always been a strength of yours, or something you’ve really been working toward?


No, not really. I’m just good at it, so I just do it. I’m real athletic. I can jump higher than other people. I’m tall, so that gives me an advantage.

This is a tough county. In general, what do you think separates you from those other athletic kids that you can just pull down boards as much as you do?

Me, I think it’s my determination. If it’s in the air, it’s mine. I got to go get, I gotta go for it. I got a goal to get. I got to get my name in there.

Have you noticed you’ve been picking it up more since you found out about the record?

Definitely noticed. My game’s gone up since I found out.

You recently dealt with an ankle injury, and you got healthier faster, too, because no way you were going to miss time.


I can’t. I was never out. I gotta play through it.

So, like I said, the county is so tough. But consistency with your team just stands out every time. How do you think your consistency rebounding helps translates to Northeast’s consistency in general?

The more rebounds I get, that’s the more shots my guards get, the more time my guards have to get in their rhythm and lock in. Everybody has their role on the team, the job they’re supposed to do. And everybody does their job.

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When you look at that Northeast team from a couple years ago, what does it mean to you now to be on a team similar to that, where everyone’s doing well? [Note: the 2019-20 Northeast team captured the first county championship in program history and was about to head to the Class 3A state semifinals when the coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament to pause. The games were fully canceled soon after].

It feel good because we’re living up to a higher name. The 2020 team went all the way to regionals.

You have a whole year left and you’re already potentially going to have your name on a ball, which is awesome. What do you want to do beyond this? Once you’ve accomplished this, what would be your next goal?


My next goal would probably be the double-double record. We’re still trying to figure out what it is in a single-season.

Wouldn’t it be funny if you’d already broken it?