When it comes to pure athleticism, there aren’t many, if any, athletes in Southold High School who can match Shayne Johnson. Johnson runs like a deer, glides in the air like an osprey and, if that isn’t enough, his basketball game just seems to be getting better and better.
The 5-foot-11 Johnson plays as if he has springs in his legs. He is the only Southold player who can dunk, something fans may get to see this coming season if the opportunity presents itself.
Ironically, it was Johnson’s dunking ability that got him into some trouble this past spring. After dunking a ball, he landed awkwardly and broke his left wrist, putting an early end to his baseball season.
“I got the dunk,” Johnson said. “I did the hard part but didn’t land it, the easy part.”
At first, Johnson was told he would need surgery and have pins put in his wrist, but a doctor was able to put the wrist back in place, expediting his return to sports, and Johnson played soccer for the First Settlers this fall.
But Johnson hasn’t played much basketball since the injury. The junior forward played only about a half of each of the final three games for Southold in a summer league, and that was about it until the First Settlers started practice on Wednesday.
“It’s weird, though,” Johnson said after Thursday’s practice. “I feel rusty still because after I broke my wrist, I didn’t play much since then. I have to get back into it and get used to it all again.”
Nevertheless, observers say they have liked what they have seen from Johnson, who they say looks stronger and faster than he was a year ago.
“It seems like he got a lot faster and he can jump higher so he’ll be good for the fast break,” junior forward Alex Poliwoda said. “He’s always been able to jump like that, so it’s no surprise to see him able to get up that high.”
Southold coach Phil Reed has noticed the new, improved Shayne Johnson.
“He is quick, fast and, you know what, I think this gym is not big enough for him,” Reed said. “He looks a lot faster. He looks a lot more athletic this year. I think last year he was learning to play on the varsity level. … Now he’s got confidence.”
Johnson also has a little old school in him.
“I’m watching him finger roll during warmups,” Reed said, “and I’m like: ‘Whoa! Where did you learn that stuff? That’s going back to the ’70s, early ’80s.’ ”
Reed said, “If we can get Shayne in the weight room a little bit, get him working out a little more and get stronger, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dunking on a regular basis.”
Johnson said his left wrist gets sore every now and then. “Sometimes catching the ball hurts, but it’s nothing I can’t work through,” he said.
On the plus side, he said he feels he is more explosive now.
Johnson is among a cast of returning players for Southold that includes All-League junior Liam Walker, Kenji Fujita, Kevin McGough, James Penny, Michael Ryan and Poliwoda. The First Settlers are hoping for a better showing than last season, when they went 4-13.
“This is our year,” Johnson said. “If we’re going to go anywhere, this is it, and we’ll do it.”