16 Mar 2017 SportsBoard’s Kris Johnson Reflects on His Own March Madness
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Kris Johnson that March is his favorite time of year. It was March 1995, 22 years ago, that Kris achieved the ultimate goal of any collegiate student athlete, winning an NCAA Championship in men’s basketball.
As a 6’4” freshman power forward out of Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High, Johnson played on a loaded UCLA Bruins team that was coached by Jim Harrick, assisted by Steve Lavin, and featured five future NBA players: Ed and Charles O’Bannon, Tyus Edney, Toby Bailey and George Zidek.
“Honestly, it doesn’t seem like 22 years ago,” said Johnson, a Social Media Strategist and Business Development Manager with SportsBoard. “It still resonates with me like it just happened. What an incredible moment in time it was! I recall a lot from memory, but it also helps to have YouTube and old press clippings to remind me.”
This year’s Bruin squad, coached by Steve Alford and led by sensational freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, reminds Johnson of his 1995 title team.
“They’re very deep, they have six players averaging in doubles figures and they look for each other,” he said.
And they have Ball, a hybrid of Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson.
“Lonzo Ball has completely changed the culture of UCLA basketball,” he said. “With Lonzo, passing, moving and sharing the ball has become a way of life with these guys. It’s just a beautiful game to watch.”
The Bruins have lost only three games all season, they’ve been ranked in the top five nationally every week, and they’re expected to be a top seed on selection Sunday. Do they have a shot at winning UCLA’s 12th national championship and first since 1995?
“They have arguably the most explosive offense in college basketball history,” Johnson said. “But it will come down to whether they can stop teams from scoring. There’s only been one UCLA team to win a national championship that didn’t have John Wooden as coach and that was us. It’s been a long draught. I hope they can end it.”
Whatever happens with this year’s group, Johnson will be loudly cheering them on.
“I’ve seen three games in person, and I’ve watched almost every game on television,” he said. “UCLA basketball is part of my DNA. My father (Marques) and brother (Josiah) played there. It’s personal to me. It’s in my heart.”
Johnson finished his UCLA career as the 25th leading scorer in the program’s storied history and played professionally for eight seasons, mainly overseas. Now, he’s in his sixth year with SportsBoard, drawing on those magical experiences at UCLA to help SportsBoard navigate through the sports technology space that has been red-hot with investment and M&A activity the past 15 months.
“A big part of my job is talking with collegiate and grassroots sports organizations, showing them the benefits of SportsBoard,” he said. “I am really excited about our recent partnership with HoopGroup, the company’s first real foray into elite grassroots basketball.
“My familiarity with the entire recruiting process adds a lot of value to my role at SportsBoard. I just can’t see how one day SportsBoard isn’t being used by a majority of sports organizers who care about tracking an athlete’s development over time.”