The past few seasons have been tough on Durand Johnson. Sixteen games into his redshirt sophomore season at Pittsburgh, the former Lake Clifton star tore his ACL. Then just days before the 2014-15 campaign, Johnson – fully recovered from his injury – was suspended for an undisclosed violation of school policy.
After two years of turmoil, Johnson finally had something to celebrate Wednesday. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing committed to play for St. John's. He'll finish his bachelor's degree in social sciences at Pittsburgh and have immediate eligibility for the Red Storm as a graduate student.
"Oh man, it feels great," said Johnson, who also visited West Virginia and was recruited by several other high-major schools. "It's a relief now that I can just get ready to go to work."
Johnson, who redshirted as a freshman during the 2011-12 season, was named Pittsburgh's most improved player as a redshirt freshman and averaged 8.8 points in his injury-shortened sophomore year. Having played just 47 games in two seasons, Johnson's season-long suspension last fall was particularly hard to take.
"I would say it humbled me a lot. It truly did," Johnson said. "I actually learned from it. It's not what you did, it's how you react and how you come back from it and leave your mark. I just tried to stay positive and keep my eyes on what I want to do and where I want to go in life."
Johnson said he attended every Panthers practice and traveled with the team. When it was announced that he would not be reinstated to play for Pitt, Johnson became one of the most coveted transfers available.
With NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin coming back to coach his alma mater, St. John's quickly emerged as an attractive option for Johnson.
"I feel like it'll be good for me," Johnson said. "It'll motivate me to go even harder, knowing I'm playing for a Hall of Fame coach. [Mullin] knows what it takes to win. He's had big success. For a guy like me who's hungry, who's starving, I'm just motivated to take after him and just learn from him."
Johnson becomes the second local player on the St. John's roster, joining former Pallotti and Mount Zion Prep forward Tariq Owens, who transferred from Tennessee.
"St. John's felt like a great fit," Johnson said. "I was comfortable there. This is where I want to be."
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