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A.V. JUMPER OVERCOMES PAIN, LOOKS FOR BERTH AT STATE MEET.

Byline: KEVIN CONNELLY Special to the Daily News

When opposing basketball teams size up junior Thomas Johnson for the first time, the 6-foot Antelope Valley High point guard does not appear to be much of an above-the-rim type of player.This is one of those cases, he says, when looks can be deceiving.

Johnson, a standout in basketball and track and field, is one of the most explosive dunkers in the area in the winter and one of the state's best high jumpers come spring. His leap of 6 feet, 8 inches is second in the area this season and just one inch off the top mark at last June's state finals.

``I've been practicing harder than ever before and really listening to my coaches,'' said Johnson, who has battled severe tendinitis in his knees this year. ``My knees started hurting during basketball season this year. The pain comes and goes, but sometimes it hurts so bad, I can't even jump.''

Johnson, whose 43-inch vertical jump is on par with some of the top leapers in the NBA, had to sit out the Mt. SAC Relays last weekend because of the pain. He insists the injury will not sideline him all season.

``It hurts a lot,'' he said, ``but how can I let it stop me? My goal is to clear 7-0 this year and win the state title.''

If Johnson does compete in the June 2-3 state meet, he can ask teammate Andre Crenshaw - defending state champion in the long jump - for advice.

``Andre and I are good friends,'' he said. ``When it comes down to it, I'm going to ask him for tips about how to approach the meet. Yeah, I'll be picking his brain a bit.''

kevin.connelly(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 19, 2006
Words:296
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