March 3, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- An opportunity was all Brian Johnson could ask for, and the Mississippi State Bulldogs were happy to give it to him.
After having three knee surgeries to repair a torn lateral meniscus before his college career began, Johnson wasn''t sure he would see the court again.
Between stops at Louisville and Mississippi State, Johnson has played in 77 career college games.
"I just thank God for even playing the game," Johnson said. "The fact I''ve been able to play at all after the knee surgeries, I can''t complain with that."
As part of Senior Night, the 6-foot-9 forward will be honored prior to Wednesday''s game (7 p.m.) against Florida at Humphrey Coliseum.
An ankle injury Johnson suffered in the preseason kept him from realizing his full potential this season. He has only averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 14 games.
"He''s had his share of bad luck," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "I don''t know what bad luck is, but you could probably put his name beside it from a standpoint of having injuries. It could have been worse. He could have had injuries that he couldn''t recover from."
While recovering from his third knee surgery in six months, Johnson received a medical redshirt at Louisville in 2004-05. He came back to letter for Rick Pitino''s squad in 2005-06 and contributed 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Johnson decided to transfer to MSU and sat out the 2006-07 season as he worked to strengthen his knee. He played in 33 games as a junior, scoring 2.3 points and pulling down 2.2 rebounds per outing.
Stansbury said Johnson had his best offseason and felt like he was going to have a huge senior year.
Then came the preseason injury that caused him to miss the first 11 games.
"He sprained his ankle running the sideline with no contact," Stansbury said. "Right when we thought we were getting him back (for the Charlotte game on Dec. 10), he turns that ankle again in practice. It was right around Christmas when we decided to go small and it''s just been a struggle for him to get back on the court.
"Through all of that, he''s had a great attitude and great work ethic. He''s been very positive and he''s a great kid. He''s always encouraging others, and those are the things he does within this team that''s very important."
Despite his injuries, Johnson has enjoyed his time at MSU.
"I''ve had a good time here," Johnson said. "Coach (Rick) Stansbury gave me the opportunity to contribute to the team."
Johnson doesn''t want his college career to end prematurely, and considers games against Florida and Ole Miss to be critical if the Bulldogs want to realize an opportunity to play in the postseason.
Johnson plans to finish the regular season strong and to be the leader for the team down the stretch.
"We definitely need these last two," Johnson said. "(The Auburn game) was a must-win game but we didn''t get that. We just need to take what we can get with these last two.
"I try to keep everybody''s head up. With all the young guys, I need to let them know it''s not over yet. Sometimes they have the right attitude, but sometimes they want to give in, but you can''t right now."