Syracuse, N.Y. — Ask those that are close with the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team and they’ll tell you it’s like one close-knit family. In fact, the word ‘family’ frequently comes up in discussions when both current and former players refer to the program.
Such is the case for B.J. Johnson, who played at Syracuse for two season before transferring to La Salle in 2015. Even though he transferred out, Johnson insists there were no hard feelings on either side. He’s maintained relationships with his former teammates and says he’s still tight with former Syracuse guys Rakeem Christmas, Ron Patterson and Chris McCullough to this day.
“It’s just like a big family atmosphere,” Johnson said of Syracuse. “I transferred but there was no bad blood between us. To be able to come back and have people take me in like I never left is pretty exciting.
“It’s just like a day one thing. Once you get in all the players, coaching staff and fans take you in as your own,” he finished.
Some have said that Johnson was pushed out of the Syracuse basketball program, but there’s no signs of enmity on either side. Johnson even showed up to Boehiem’s Army games in past years when they were in Philadelphia. Head coach Ryan Blackwell said Johnson is just mature and that “he wasn’t like that.”
To be sure, there is money and exposure on the line for guys competing in The Basketball Tournament. Johnson himself is coming off a year where he played in six NBA games with the Atlanta Hawks and had a strong showing in NBA Summer League before being waived by the Sacramento Kings. Most of the guys competing in TBT are fighting to carve out careers in the sport.
“I think for a guy like B.J., he understands. He transferred but he understands the business of basketball,” Blackwell said. “This is a great opportunity for him to make money and he’ll play on ESPN and be seen.”
Still, he didn’t have to come back and play with the Syracuse guys. Kevin Belbey had reached out to him last year, but Johnson was under contract and couldn’t play elsewhere. It speaks volumes about both B.J. and the Syracuse program. Jim Boeheim even gave Belbey and Blackwell the nod of approval.
“When I texted coach (Boehiem) I said ‘Coach, what do you think of B.J. Johnson?’ he said ‘Great pick. He’s young, athletic and can score. Great choice,” Blackwell finished.
Once you're part of this family, you're supported for life. pic.twitter.com/Oy1sFHCtgY— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) July 26, 2019