By Pedro Velazco
Northwestern senior Chase Johnson said his parents pushed him to be strong academically and early on, and he really didn’t understand the urgency for a long time. The same thing happened in basketball, where his coaches were the ones pushing him to get better.
He gets it now. Their prodding and Johnson’s work paid off with a scholarship to play basketball at Marian University.
“It’s a pretty good situation I’m in. I’m blessed to be honest,” Johnson said.
The Northwestern center signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play for the Knights next season. He’ll get a mixture of academic and athletic scholarship aid that takes care of about 2/3 of his costs, and has a spot at a school where he feels excited about his athletic and academic opportunities.
He’ll play for former Butler and Iowa coach Todd Lickliter at Marian, an NAIA Division II school in that plays in the Crossroads League. Johnson narrowed his list of schools to DePauw and Marian, and liked both, but felt best about the Indianapolis school.
“First of all, it’s closer to home, that’s always good,” he said. “I’d have to say that being able to play for a Division I coach is pretty awesome too. He coached at Iowa and Butler, and had successful seasons with them. I felt like he’d make me into an outstanding basketball player. It seems more exciting. I got to meet both the teams and all the guys [from both schools] were awesome. Marian’s guys seemed really nice. Their center [Michael Barton] gave me a tour around campus. I’m excited about mentoring under him.”
Johnson plans to major in business accounting.
As a senior, Johnson averaged 11.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, hit 56.7 percent of his shots from the field, and swatted 33 shots on defense.
“He’s got good size, he’s versatile, and so often nowadays, young players that have good size aren’t comfortable around the basket. He’s comfortable around the basket,” Lickliter said. “It’s not that he can only do it, but he’s comfortable around it. I heard so many good things about him.
“He has a very good touch 10 feet and in. He’s going to get stronger. We’ve got a pretty veteran team next year. I think that’ll be good for him, because we’ve got one year under our belt with our players and they can help him develop too. He’s had good coaching, I feel good about the program he’s in [at Northwestern].”
Lickliter took over the Marian program last season and guided the Knights to a 17-13 season.
“Coach Lickliter told me he really liked how I played inside,” Johnson said. “I’m going to of course gain a lot of pounds. [I may] have to go out on the perimeter and be more of a four man than a five. He’s expecting me to develop more of my game inside and outside.”
Northwestern boys coach Jim Gish feels Johnson has the right mindset to work on new things.
“I think Marian really sees him as having a ton of ability on the inside with his back to the basket, and really being a defensive presence and rebounding presence for them,” Gish said. “I know they’re really excited about both of those.
“Chase worked extremely hard to get what he has. It didn’t come naturally to him. He’s a kid who from freshman year to senior year has grown leaps and bounds in the game of basketball, and now he gets to reap those rewards.”