STEVENSVILLE - Tariq Johnson, a 6-foot-5 guard who attends Kent Island High School, has made the decision to do a prep year at Mount Zion Prep in Baltimore.
Johnson went to Parkdale High School in 2013 and 2014 for his freshman and sophomore years of high school. In 2013, he played on the junior varsity team, but made the varsity roster a year later.
“My experience at Parkdale was okay, but it taught me a lot about myself,” Johnson said. “It showed me what kind of people I need to be around and what type of environment I need to be around. Parkdale was not bad – it was just not for me. I grew up with many people that go and went there, so it was somewhat easy to get distracted.”
In 2015, during Johnson’s junior year, he transferred to Kent Island High School in Stevensville. The change of scenery worked, as he made first team All-Conference his first year there.
“The transfer was needed just for new experiences and to focus on school and basketball,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty calm and relaxing and quiet out here, so it was easier for me to focus.
“There are not a lot of distractions here, so it is easier to focus on my priorities. The support system in the academics department and sports department here is amazing.”
Johnson made progress in his two years at Kent Island. He helped the school finish 14-7 his senior year, including winning five non-conference games.
In a rivalry game against Queen Anne’s School, Johnson scored 42 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. He set school records for the most points scored in one game with that 42-point performance, broke the dunk record with 27 dunks in one season, and scored 1,000 points throughout his final two years.
Recruitment has picked up for Johnson following his outstanding performances at Kent Island. He has caught the interest of Kansas State, West Virginia, Towson and Hofstra, amongst others. Next year, he will join Head Coach Rodrick Harrison and his team at Mount Zion Prep to develop his game further.
“When I go prep, I want to develop my all-around game more. I’m a late bloomer so I just have to stay more consistent with everything, and I want to improve my motor for college,” Johnson said.
His trainer, Joe Skinner, claimed that Johnson does not know how much potential he has. Skinner attended his games and gave him pep talks beforehand and during halftime for motivation.
“During the beginning, training Tariq was just all about how to approach the training sessions,” Skinner said. “Tariq didn’t know how to push himself, and his potential is just through the roof. Tariq and I have trained before the season and sometimes during the season.
“I feel prep will help him and I am glad he made his decision to go there and compete at a high level. The kid is just real explosive, and he will be big at the next level.”
Cooke to PGCC
On March 17, Central High School senior guard Deonte Cooke signed with Prince George’s Community College (PGCC).
“Next year I plan to bring more scoring and be a strong ball handler to help get their primary scorers into positions to keep scoring the ball,” Cooke said.
Cooke went to Central High School during his ninth and 10th grade years, transferred to Bladensburg High School for his junior season, but then went back to Central for his senior year. As a freshman, Cooke made the varsity team but ended up playing junior varsity due to a lack of playing time.
“I think JV helped me develop more, and as a team, we had a lot of talent, but we didn’t play together at all like we did this past year,” Cooke said. “We lost a lot of games, but the school had a better environment and people were excited to see us play.”
Cooke played in a different conference than Central while with Bladensburg, as the Mustangs compete in the 4A division while the Falcons play against the 3/2/1A schools. During his time at Bladensburg, the team had a 16-7 record while he averaged just 5.2 points-per-game. Bladensburg made it to the regional final that year, but fell short to Eleanor Roosevelt.
“It was a great experience, and it was good to see the comparison in the 4A division from 3A and 2A divisions,” Cooke said. “I developed my jump shot a lot at Bladensburg and became a great shooter along with being more athletic and stronger on both sides of the court.”
When Cooke returned to Central, his stats and productivity increased to 15.2 points-per-game while helping lead his team to a 21-4 record. Unfortunately, the Falcons lost in the state quarterfinals to Century High School, 70-61.
Before Cooke decided to sign with PGCC, he had interest from schools such as Bowie State, Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and CCBC-Dundalk.
Cooke describes his relationship with Central Head Coach Lawrence Pugh as a close one. Cooke said Pugh taught the team more than just basketball and gave him lessons that he can relate to real life.
“Coach Pugh gives us real life scenarios and brought multiple people in this year to talk to us and show us how real the world is. I know that when I graduate, I will always be welcomed back into Central’s gym.”