Portions of Logan Johnson’s roving childhood were spent in Spokane, where he was born at Providence Sacred Heart before going on to become a crafty guard at NCAA Tournament regular Saint Mary’s.
His recollections of the Lilac City are vivid without drawing from the unsavory memory of his most recent visit, a 90-60 blowout loss at Gonzaga in February.
Johnson – the younger brother of Brooklyn Nets guard Tyler Johnson – recalled staying with his Spokane Valley grandparents and aunt as a teenager, playing in Hoopfest and swimming in the pool of neighbor and family friend, then-KXLY news anchor and current Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward.
“We’d go over to (Woodward’s) house, play video games and swim,” said Johnson, whose mother, Jennifer, was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base before moving the family to several other states as part of her lengthy military career.
“I remember Hoopfest and the basketball camps up there. Great atmosphere.”
When the family settled near the San Jose, California, area, Tyler Johnson went on to become a self-made standout at Saint Francis High School and Fresno State, turning an undrafted free-agent signing with the Miami Heat in 2014 into a four-year, $50-million contact two years later.
Logan Johnson, who has a striking resemblance to his brother at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, wasn’t an under-the-radar gem.
Logan was among the nation’s top 150 recruits, according to Rivals.com. He played his freshman season at Cincinnati in a reserve role before returning home to the Bay Area to play at Saint Mary’s last season.
The Gaels (6-1) have developed a fierce West Coast Conference rivalry with top-ranked Gonzaga, but Johnson is currently focused on another Spokane-area program that has March Madness aspirations: Eastern Washington.
The defending Big Sky Conference champion Eagles (1-3) visit Saint Mary’s on Tuesday in Moraga, Calif., in a nonconference game between two notable smaller college programs.
This is EWU’s biggest nonconference mid-major test since defeating Ohio Valley Conference power Belmont 87-82 last season in Cheney.
“(EWU) is a good team,” said Johnson, who averages 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds. “Whenever you’re going up against a team that’s supposed to do well in their conference, you better be ready to play.”
EWU was picked to win the Big Sky again this year. Saint Mary’s was picked third in the WCC behind Gonzaga and BYU.
After losses to Pac-12 schools Washington State (71-68), Arizona (70-67) and defending conference champion Oregon (69-52) and a handling of NAIA College of Idaho (80-56), EWU faces a team closer to its weight class.
Saint Mary’s – a program that, like EWU, often attracts talent from Australia – lost its three primary scorers from a year ago, opening the season with a 73-56 loss to Memphis.
The Gaels have since won six straight, taking down Missouri Valley Conference power Northern Iowa (66-64), Summit League contender South Dakota State (72-59), Nicholls State (73-50), Texas Southern (73-50) and UTEP (82-70).
Fifth-year senior guard Tommy Kuhse (13 points and 6.4 assists per game) leads the Gaels, who are limiting teams to 62 points a game, shooting an efficient 47% from the field.
The wide-open, guard-heavy Eagles look to slow down a bigger Saint Mary’s team that plays a different tempo, with 6-foot-10 with Mattias Tass in the middle and two active wings in Dan Fotu (6-foot-7) and Alex Ducas (6-foot-6)
EWU guard and Big Sky preseason Player of the Year Jacob Davison (12 ppg), a California native, is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve always watched (Saint Mary’s) growing up because they’re a Cali team, and I have close friends and family with connections to Saint Mary’s,” Davison said. “It’s going to be exciting. They are a very good team and it’s going to be a good test for us.”
Fourth-year EWU coach Shantay Legans, another California native, started three years at point guard at Cal in the early 2000s, a 12-mile jaunt from the Saint Mary’s campus.
He has witnessed the growth of the Gaels’ program the past two decades.
“It’s going to be exciting to see how we (fare) against a team that we’re trying to emulate,” Legans said. “They’re also from a small town, Moraga, and we look at them and think, ‘Can we build the same way?’ ”
“I feel like we have, especially [recruiting] through high school ranks. We’ve got some Australians on our team that are pretty good and other international guys.”
EWU has shot poorly from 3-point range in its first four games, 34-for-122 (27.9%), but has countered with contributions inside from forwards Tyler Robertson (12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and brothers Jacob Groves (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Tanner Groves (11 ppg, 9.8 rpg).
“It’s going to be a really skilled game,” Legans said. “They’re very skilled and so are we, so you’ll see a lot of movement and a lot of 3-point shots. They’re very well-coached, physical and tough.”
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and can be viewed at WCCsports.com/watch.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.