Stopping the clock
February 25, 2020
The matchup against Niles was close and physical when Johnson was injured early in the game. “He was fouled 3 or 4 times with no call and was frustrated,” Neal recalls. “I told him he was going to have to take it to the basket harder.”
Johnson did take it to the basket harder, coming up with a big dunk attempt but then landing awkwardly on the way down. “I thought he just rolled his ankle,” Neal says.
The ball went back the other way and the game wasn’t even stopped until a foul was called on the other end of the court. “That’s when I realized he was still down there,” Neal remembers. “I went out to him and he was said, “Why me? Coach, I’m done.”
Neal noticed blood on the floor, but the trainer was there and had covered Johnson’s leg with a towel. “I thought he was cut,” Neal says. “I asked the trainer, did he roll his ankle? And he just looked at me and said, no Coach, he has a compound fracture. By that time, his mom was with us, and [TJ] Tyus was praying over him.”
The moment happened equally as slowly for Johnson. “The ball went the other way down the floor, so I looked down that way to watch,” he remembers. “I thought about getting up, and I couldn’t. That was when I looked down at my leg did a double take. I couldn’t believe it, because I couldn’t feel anything other than that I couldn’t move.”
Nieves was in the stands watching the game. “Any time I have to relive this exact moment I still get emotional,” she shares. “I do recall Myles and I making eye contact, and him shaking his head back and forth as to say no and I knew it wasn’t good. My heart dropped. He started pounding the floor and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Someone asked if I was his mom and that’s when I assumed it was serious.”
When Johnson saw his leg, he knew how significant his injury was. “When I first saw it, I just put my head back down I was just thinking that it was over,” he says. “Then the trainer came and put a towel over it, and that was strange. Even though it was small, that towel felt like the heaviest thing.”
By that time, Nieves was already with him on the court. “When I made it on the court, there was a lot of blood and someone had a towel up so that I couldn’t see his leg, but I was more focused on Myles at the moment. He seemed to be in shock and kept saying, ‘Mama it’s over, my career is over.’”
Leading up to Johnson’s injury, the game was a fast-paced and intense, but the sobering event brought perspective to both teams. “The team was visibly shaken,” Neal says. “Their hearts and minds were with Myles.” The Huskies went down 9 immediately before coming back for a late lead and ultimately losing the game 49-50.
“It was heartbreaking, honestly,” recalls Wilson, shaking his head. “To see his season taken from him instantly, for him not to be able to show how hard he worked.”
While the Huskies played and prayed for their teammate, Johnson was on the way to South Bend, Indiana, which was the location of the nearest facility that could handle the severity of his injury. There, he had surgery to repair his fractured leg.
Johnson had the support not just of his teammates, but of his entire school and the West Michigan community, who supported him either by visiting him in Indiana or sending him positive vibes on social media.