There was a time he could get by on skill alone.
Then he got to high school.
Nahseer Johnson is a senior shooting guard on the Father Judge High School basketball team, and prior to getting there, he was a star on the St. Martin of Tours CYO basketball team.
Fast, quick and a good shooter, Johnson had a lot of the tools it takes to be a quality basketball player, but he needed to get stronger.
It was evident right when he started playing.
“Bigger guards would post me up, they were a lot stronger than me,” said Johnson, who stands about 6 feet tall and weighs around 160 pounds. “Everyone told me that when I got to high school, I would have to start lifting because the guys are bigger, but I didn’t listen. After I got here, I realized they were right.”
Johnson still has all those skills that make him a star player, but now he has the strength to compete against the big guys.
And he got stronger by working out with one of the best in the history of the Crusaders program, Marc Rodriguez, who is now starring at East Stroudsburg University.
“Marc told me to work out with him and I started to, and it really helped me,” said Johnson, who lives in Summerdale. “Marc has a whole thing in his garage. He has barbells, dumbbells, all kinds of weights. And he pushes me.
“It was great to learn from him because I know it worked for him. He’s pretty strong. He’s helped me a lot. He’s taught me a lot of things, basketball and in other things. He’s a great trainer, he really works hard and makes me work hard.”
Johnson hopes that hard work pays off come basketball season.
During his time at Judge, Johnson has been a star player, seeing some quality minutes as a freshman and starting the last two seasons. This year, he’s hoping to have a final year where he would love to help the Crusaders get into the playoffs and possibly beyond.
Last year, Judge lost its first 10 games of Catholic League play before winning three of its final four games. It was a rough year for the Crusaders, who dealt with a lot of injuries early in the year.
In fact, Judge has been plagued by injuries in each of the last three seasons. Johnson believes if the team were healthy, it could have been different.
“Every year, we had a big injury or two and it really hurt us,” Johnson said. “When you’re playing the teams we play every day, you have to go in full strength. The other teams are really good. I think we could have been better, but we played hard. We got better every year.”
This year is the final one for Johnson, and as soon as they get started, he thinks the Crusaders could be a sleeper team.
“We have to play well, not just me and Justin (Blythe, senior point guard), but the younger guys, too,” Johnson said. “I think we have a lot of talent, we could be good. It’s a tough league, everyone knows that, but we can win.”
They certainly have a guy who can lead the way.
Blythe is a solid point guard who can make things happen, but if the Crusaders are going to get to the postseason and make a run, they’re going to need a strong effort from Johnson, who led the team in scoring last year. He’s only gotten better in the offseason, so he could be in for a great year.
“I can get to the rim, and I’m becoming more of a shooter,” Johnson said. “I’m more of a midrange shooter. I’m getting better and working on it. And I’m working on my defense. That’s important, it’s one of the reasons I’m getting stronger. I had guys post me up, easily before. In this league, the guys are strong, so I’m trying to get stronger.”
Johnson’s biggest goal is getting the Crusaders to the playoffs, but he also has a personal goal. He would love to become the second player in Judge history to reach 1,000 points. Judge has a history of great basketball, but the only player to reach that milestone is Rodriguez.
Johnson would love to follow in his mentor’s footsteps. He is sitting at 720 going into the season. Last season, he scored 377 points, so it’s well within reach, depending on how many games Judge plays.
“It would be great to get, because I know how many great players played at Judge,” Johnson said. “Marc was great. (Coach Sean Tait) was great. I would love to be the second guy to get that.”
He also hopes to secure a place to play college basketball over the next few months. He’s unsure where he’ll end up, but he would like to find a place that offers sports management.
“Marc’s helped me with that too,” Johnson said. “If basketball doesn’t work out for me, as a career, I would still want to be around sports, and sports management offers that. I think communications would be good, too, because that’s a chance to stay around sports, too.
“I hope to play basketball for a long time. I want to have a good senior year and see what happens.”