NIC-10 teammates happy overlooked boys basketball star shines in Rising Stars Classic

For 19 boys basketball players Saturday night, the 26th annual Rising Stars senior all-star game at Rock Valley College was one last chance to be in the spotlight.

For Jefferson’s Randy Johnson, it was a first chance.

There were bigger stars Saturday. NIC-10 MVP Rakim Chaney of Auburn was MVP again, scoring 29 points, including a final 3-pointer from mid-court, to lead the NIC-10 to an easy 121-97 win over the All-Area Boys team. Malachi Johnson, who led Guilford to its only back-to-back conference titles in school history, was next with 23 points. Adam Brown, who led Belvidere North to its first 20-win season, added 13 points for the NIC-10, which is now 19-7 all-time in the series against the All-Area Boys.

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Johnson had 10. He was also the player his team seemed to focus on the most, whether it was ribbing him from the bench or cheering him on.

“Randy is such a nice, humble young man,” said Freeport coach Tee Jay Jackson, who coached the NIC-10 Boys. “He’s very coachable, fun to be around. He’s quiet, but hilarious. We were having a good time with him.”

At one point, during a break in the action, Johnson and Chaney tried to blame Randy Johnson’s sweat for stains on Malachi Johnson’s jersey.

“Malachi dumped some juice over there on his jersey,” Randy Johnson said. “They said it was my sweat.”

Chaney, standing at mid-court, then somehow turned the teasing into what Randy Johnson ate for dinner.

“I don’t know what he was talking about,” Randy Johnson said.

“Me and Randy,” Chaney explained, “are always joking about being in the weight room, doing a lot of push ups and trying to gain weight. Before the game, me and Randy were talking about what we ate. He said he had a cheeseburger so I was joking about it.”

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It didn’t always make sense. It didn’t have to make sense. The sentiment was obvious: His teammates were happy to see an overlooked star shine.

“That’s our boy. I love Randy,” Malachi Johnson said.

Johnson came along at the wrong time at Jefferson. A school that had finished .500 or better in the NIC-10 in eight of nine seasons went 5-24 and 6-24 in Johnson's sophomore and junior seasons, although the J-Hawks did rebound to 17-13 (9-9 NIC-10) this season.

“This year at Jefferson was my best year,” he said. “All the players on my team, I thank them. And Coach L.C. (Robinson) and the other coaches, they helped us improve and be better this year.”

But while basketball got better, football got worse. Johnson, who was all-conference in both sports, is a chiseled 6-foot-4, 203-pound receiver who stopped catching passes because Jefferson suddenly couldn’t throw this year after losing junior Sebastian Bracius to an offseason injury. Bracius had broken all of Jefferson’s single-season passing records the year before.

“It was very hard. I am used to catching the ball,” Johnson said. “Knowing I couldn’t catch the ball, I still had to be there for my team.”

Catching passes isn’t the only thing people around the NIC-10 did not see Randy Johnson do this year.

“I had never seen him dunk, but I know he can jump for real, so I know he can dunk,” Guilford’s Malachi Johnson said. “When we get the opportunity, I wanted to see him put one in the rim.”

So Johnson dunked Saturday. Twice.

“My coach told me to go out with a bang,” Johnson said.

His teammates wanted to see it, too.

“We had never seen him dunk before,” Chaney said. “After that, it was just a fun game all around.”

The All-Area boys led for most of the first quarter, but once their 3-pointers stopped falling, the NIC-10 was basically unchallenged, leading 48-41 at halftime and scoring the first nine points of the second half. The All-Area Boys never got closer than 13 points again.

Johnson had his couple of moments in the spotlight. His teammates all say he will get more in college, where Johnson plans to play football somewhere.

“He did his thing this year,” Guilford’s Malachi Johnson said. “He made use of what he had and he made the most of it. When he gets going and starts imposing his will, he is hard to stop. He is so big being a football player, but he is a basketball player too and knows what to do. When he gets that strength in there with his touch around the rim, he is hard to stop.”

Chaney said Randy Johnson is the type of player who gets better when he is surrounded by other good players.

“Getting him the ball inside and getting him to his spots where he is comfortable at makes him look like a really good player,” Chaney said. “Hopefully he will do that at the next level, whether that’s football or basketball. Either way, I think he is going to dominate.”

Contact:, @matttrowbridge or 815-987-1383. Matt Trowbridge has covered sports for the Rockford Register Star for over 30 years, after previous stints in North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont and Iowa City.

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: A rare chance to shine for this star highlights 2024 Rising Stars game