ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — In his third season as head coach, former Gopher Damian Johnson has Benilde St. Margaret's one win away from state.
"I feel like we got an environment where it's fun for everyone," said Damian Johnson.
"Sometimes I definitely feel like he's one of us, like one of the kids on the team. He's always so high energy," said sophomore Jalen Wilson.
Fourth in Minnesota program history in blocks and steals, you know the Red Knights are going to defend.
"If you're not working on defense, he's sitting you out. You're sitting on the bench," said sophomore Jaleel Donley.
"Sometimes I go against them and just talk smack to them. Let them know it's all-Big Ten defense when I'm guarding them," said Johnson.
Take in a Red Knights practice or game, and it's hard not to think about success not only this season but also in the future.
"The hype that we get — people saying, 'Oh, we got two more years,'" said Donley.
"We're one of the best teams in the state with one senior on the roster, so that means a lot to us," said Wilson.
There's also 1,000-point scorer Jalen Wilson.
"I think he's got a chance to be really special, really gifted," said Johnson.
Standout point guard Jaleel Donley has the keys to the car.
"He's one of the most talented kids I've ever been around," said Johnson.
And athletic freak Abu Keita.
Johnson hopes that the sophomore trio can experience the first of many trips to the Minnesota State High School League State Boys Basketball Tournament next week.
"We haven't been to the state tournament since 2010; I was still hooping in college still. Getting an opportunity to get there would be something special," said Johnson.
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