Geron Johnson, senior guard for the Memphis Tigers, has shown significant progress since he arrived onto Memphis campus in the fall of 2012. At first he was an troubled individual who just had the urge to get into trouble. But, now he is a different man. Thanks to Josh Pastner and the coaching staff, he has become a model citizen to the people around him and the city of Memphis.
When his mom, Duane Hancock, hears about how her son is doing on campus, she starts to tear up. It’s bring happiness in her life when she hears good news instead of bad news.
“He has come a long way,” said Hancock. “He’s growing up. The way he talks to me. The conversations on the phone. He’s trying to stay focused. I believe that God doesn’t give you anything that you can’t handle, so everything that he has gone through has been a learning lesson for him.”
For the very first time, Johnson made it through an entire school year as a junior at Memphis last season. In his previous years at junior college, Johnson was arrested on a series of times and was kicked out of two schools. This ultimately put his career as a basketball player on hold.
Once he got another chance at having a better life, he took full advantage of the opportunity.
“I’ve been behind bars multiple times. I’m never going back. I haven’t gone back thus far and I’m never going back. That’s just real,” said Johnson. Not trying to be funny, but Johnson was the only Tiger to be placed on curfew last season.
“Life is about habits. Build good habits, you’re going to do good things. I used to have bad habits and I got into bad situations. That’s what it’s literally about.”
Johnson was an monster on the court for the Tigers last season. He was a big part of the 31-5 record the Tigers posted at the end of last season. Johnson averaged 10.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists a game in his junior season. He started the final 26 games for the Tigers. His biggest accomplishment was being named to the Conference USA all-third team. Johnson was the leading scorer for the Tigers against the Michigan St. Spartans with 16 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers’ season ended in an horrible loss to the Spartans in the third round of the NCAA Tournament by the score of 70-48.
His work on the court was excellent, but his off the court work was more impressive. At first he was just an student-athlete, now he is a model citizen.
When former U of M president Shirley Raines announced her retirement, Johnson sent her an e-mail, thanking her for the opportunity to turn his life around. After he finished his final exams during the spring semester, he bought pizza for the academic center workers to thank them.
“What Geron has is an attitude of gratitude. He’s so thankful,” said Pastner. “I think that’s so important, appreciation versus entitlement.”
This past June, Johnson was invited to the YMCA to speak to a group of day campers who ranged between the ages of 6 and 14. He mentioned that this was something he wanted to do. He wanted to become a role model to the younger kids. As a basketball player for the Tigers, the city adores who he is and looks up to him. It is important to Johnson that he lives up to their expectations.
“It’s just a good feeling knowing when you see kids and they really look up to you — when they’re saying you’re this and you’re that. They listen to everything that you say,” said Johnson. “In junior college, you had a couple kids to talk to, but not many. But in Division 1, there’s hundreds, thousands — you know what I’m saying?
“That’s why you gotta stay focused. It’s a great blessing, something that I always prayed about since a young age. I wanna be somebody that somebody listens to. I wanna be a voice. I literally dreamed about this, and now that I’m living it I just … I can’t believe it. I know I’m not going to have no more issues because it’s what I want to do. It’s the stuff that wakes me up and makes me go harder everyday.”
Pete Shattuck, executive director at the Fogelman Downtown YMCA, said Johnson shined in the role.
“He was fantastic. He spent a lot of time with the kids. It wasn’t just one of those pop in, wave at the kids and leave. He went into the gym, talked for a few minutes, led them in physical fitness exercise and games and then signed autographs and took pictures with every kid in the program.
“He was excited and even mentioned that he’d like the opportunity to try to come back. I think he recognizes the significance of being a basketball player, especially at the University of Memphis and in the city of Memphis, and he seems to be taking responsibility to heart.”
Johnson will be turning 21 on Aug 9. and he is still walking an fine line. Meaning he can’t afford to get into trouble. One slip-up, arrest, or robbery and his career will be damaged for good. With hopes of possibly making it to the NBA, he has to stay out of trouble.
Johnson has some goals that he wants to accomplish as an basketball player next season. He wants to get to the foul line more and improve on his 35 percent 3-point shooting as a junior.
“It’s definitely not done. It will never be done, and I’m OK with that,” he said. “You can’t always make everybody in the world happy about who you are and what you do. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to live every day doing the right thing.”
His mother is so happy for her oldest son.
“I’m excited that other people are able to see him do good on and off the court,” said Hancock. “I’d like to just say thanks to coach Pastner because even with the things that Geron had gone through — and I’m sure people were in his ear as far as him taking him on a scholarship player — he took a chance on Geron.
“So I would like to say thank you to him and for him having the right staff. I think operations assistant James Alford is the person that’s right there and hands-on with the players. For them to be there to teach and help him grow, I have to say thank you to both of them.”
I received this information from the Commercial Appeal.