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January 27, 2014

House on the Hill: Tony Johnson ’13 Plays Professional Basketball in Holland

When he gets fouled these days, they’re more forceful and physical. Tony Johnson ’13 had a feeling that was coming.

Tony Johnson '13 leads SPM Shooters in minutes per game (29.1) and is sixth in the league in assists (3.8 apg).

Tony Johnson ’13 leads SPM Shooters in minutes per game (29.1) and is sixth in the league in assists (3.8 apg).

And when he and his teammates went to a Dutch farm to get accustomed to the culture in Holland, he enjoyed experimenting on a rope course and trying a zip line.

Then he was asked to milk a cow.

“Safe to say, I didn’t think the milking of a cow was necessary but I did it nonetheless. Ha!” Johnson says.

It’s one of the many things Johnson, who finished his Lafayette career sixth on the school’s all-time assists list (374) and fourth in career steals (160), has done since joining the Den Bosch SPM Shooters of the Dutch Basketball League for the 2013-14 season.

Johnson, a First-Team All-Patriot League selection as a senior, has taken in the sights in cities he never imagined he’d see, added a little European flair to his wardrobe, and has made an impact on the court.

The 6-foot, 176-pound point guard is leading the SPM Shooters in minutes played (29.1). He also is sixth in assists (3.8) in the 10-team Dutch Basketball League, which plays a 36-game regular season schedule. He’s shooting 53.4 percent (47-88) from the field and 31.7 percent (13-for-41) from three-point range.

Despite his success, Johnson admits that it’s been quite an adjustment to the game overseas.

“The professional game in Europe is much different than college basketball ‘in the states,’ as most everyone refers to it over here,” says Johnson, who graduated as an economics major. “All the players here are very smart. Ninety-nine percent of the offense is playing the pick and roll, all the players can shoot extremely well, and the overall size of players is much bigger, so they set much harder screens.”

From left are American teammates Tai Wesley (Utah State), Ali Farokhmanesh (Northern Iowa), Tony Johnson ’13, and David Gonzalvez (Richmond).

From left are American teammates Tai Wesley (Utah State), Ali Farokhmanesh (Northern Iowa), Tony Johnson ’13, and David Gonzalvez (Richmond).

Ali Farokhmanesh, a Northern Iowa grad known for having made a big three-point shot against Kansas in the NCAA tournament a few years ago, is Johnson’s roommate.

“I have been very blessed to be in such a great situation, especially right out of college,” Johnson says. “I am lucky to have a great coach and even luckier to have the teammates that I do. My Dutch and American teammates all get along very well, but the Americans have become some of my best friends. We get together almost every night for dinner, cards or both. It’s basically like a big family considering the amount of time we spend together on and off the court.”

Johnson, from Folsom, Calif., will get to see his family when it makes the trip to Holland in March, and it’s a visit he admits he can’t wait for. He won’t get home, however, until May. He did get to College Hill during the winter break and even got to see a game at Kirby Sports Center.

The SPM Shooters (15-6), formerly known as Den Bosch Eiffel Towers, sits in second place, 2 1/2 games behind Groningen, in the Dutch Basketball League. His team has won 15 league championships since 1972, and won the regular-season title last year before falling in the semifinals of the league playoffs.

As for Johnson’s playing days, he has no timetable set for how long he’s going to play professionally.

“I’ve had a great time so far and want to make the very best out of it, but going into it, I told myself that I want to play as long as I’m enjoying myself, not because I don’t have any other options,” Johnson says. “I was lucky enough to go to a great school like Lafayette to set me up for life after basketball, but I realize that basketball is something I can’t do as a profession forever so I’m going to always do what feels right.”

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1 Comment

  1. Tony was a rock-solid student in my Economics of Sports class, and I am happy to see him play in the country of my ancestors.

    says Thomas Bruggink
    January 29, 2014 at 9:57 am
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