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Mater Dei's Xavier Johnson is boys basketball player of the year
He was the "X" factor on the Mater Dei boys basketball team.
Let's have Monarchs coach Gary McKnight explain the value of Xavier Johnson ...
"He was our most consistent player," McKnight said. "He really came to play every game, and busted his tail every night."
It is that level of effort and consistency that makes Xavier Johnson the Orange County boys basketball player of the year for the 2011-12 season.
He averaged18 points a game, led the Monarchs in total points scored with 651 and led Mater Dei in rebounds with 9.2 a game.
Like the best players, Johnson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, was at his best in many of Mater Dei's biggest games.
In the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA championship game, Johnson's 19 points and 20 rebounds led Mater Dei to a 63-59 victory over Long Beach Poly. He had scored 23 in the semifinals victory over Loyola of Los Angeles.
It had been a long season already, but Johnson only got better in the CIF Southern California Regionals. He averaged 26 points a game through the Regionals, but did not get a chance to see if he could continue that when he was among five players who fouled out of the CIF State Championships Division 1 final.
Johnson, commonly called "X" be teammates and coaches, was at Chaparral of Temecula his freshman and sophomore years, then transferred to Mater Dei for his junior year. He is glad he did.
"The only thing I regret is not being here at Mater Dei for my freshman and sophomore years," Johnson said. "Nothing against Chaparral, but I'm so happy to have been part of this program. I was able to play my game, get a lot more exposure and become a better player and a better person."
He was All-County first team as a junior. Johnson feels he is much better as a senior.
"I wasn't as confident or as coordinated as I am now," he said.
McKnight said the real difference in Johnson's development is on the mental side of the game.
"'X' was a lot more focused this year than last year," McKnight said.
That newfound focus was evident early. In the Monarchs' season-opening victory over Mission Viejo in the Diablo Inferno tournament, Johnson scored 21 points with six rebounds. He was good even in Mater Dei's two losses, with 17 points against Grace Prep of Arlington, Texas, and 24 against Gill St. Bernard's of Gladstone, N.J.
Johnson helped right the ship after the loss to Gill St. Bernard's. He scored 21 points with 15 rebounds as the Monarchs routed JSerra, 80-45, in a Trinity League game. Johnson scored 23 points in back-to-back league victories over St. John Bosco of Bellflower and Orange Lutheran, and the Monarchs were on their way to an undefeated run though the Trinity League and another league championship.
Johnson signed a letter of intent with Colorado. He has a good idea of what he needs to do to get ready for college basketball.
"I have to keep working on my shooting," he said. "That, and my ball-handling. I need to be more confident, too."
Johnson will look back fondly on his two seasons with the Monarchs, with whom he won two state championships and one section title.
"I'll always treasure my championship rings and being around all of the great people I've known here," he said.
It was another memorable season, an extraordinary one, for the guy they call "X."