Former Thompson star Chaney Johnson wins Alabama’s Small College Athlete of the Year

Published 2:05 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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By MARK McCARTER | Special to the Reporter

UAH’s Chaney Johnson has been selected as Alabama’s Small College Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. He is the first UAH athlete to win the award since Jamie Smith in 2012.

Johnson, a native of Alabaster who played his high school ball at Thompson, averaged 16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his third year with the Chargers.

In a season that began with Johnson dropping 14 points on Auburn in a preseason game against UAH and ended with the Chargers’ seventh trip to the NCAA Division II South Region finals, he was named the Gulf South Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-South.

He earned a partial scholarship to the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and then ultimately a scholarship to Auburn University after Johnson entered into the transfer portal this spring. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility for Auburn after using his extra year of eligibility from COVID-19 during his freshman year at UAH.

“Chaney gave us an edge. He was different,” UAH coach John Shulman said. “He was different from everybody in the league. He didn’t come here different. He came here a 6-foot-4 skinny guy, but he had a belief, and we had belief in him, and he ended up 6-foot-7 and a man-child. His development is what it’s supposed to be in college. You get bigger and stronger and learn from the older guys. He always had one thing. He always had a work ethic, and work ethic made him the player he is today.”

With Johnson helping lead the way, UAH finished 27-8 overall and 19-5 in the GSC, winning the regular season title and earning a fifth consecutive invitation to the NCAA Division II tournament.

After appearing in all 19 games of the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, Johnson became a starter in 2021-22, averaging 16.8 points per game and being named first-team All-GSC.

“The perfect example of the Great American Dream,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called Johnson’s journey. “He will have the opportunity to impact our team right away. Auburn Basketball just got better.”