June 29, 2022

With Johnson Providing Leadership, Production, AEI Gets Off to 3-0 Start in Summer Men’s Hoops

ATHLETIC MOVE: Kevin Johnson dribbles the ball for the Packer Hall All-Stars in a 2017 game in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Playing for the Athletic Engineering Institute this season, Johnson helped AEI defeat three-time defending champion LoyalTees 51-40 last Friday to improve to 3-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When Kevin Johnson put together the Athletic Engineering Institute team to compete in Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League this season, he was cautiously optimistic.

“I definitely did feel it was a good group but you don’t know until you play,” said team manager Johnson, a former standout guard at The College of New Jersey who led the Speed Pro team in the summer league last year and noted that the AEI squad is a mix new and old faces from that group.

Last Friday evening at the Community Park courts, AEI played very well as it defeated league powerhouse LoyalTees 51-40 to improve to 3-0.

“This is the third game, we are doing pretty well,” and Johnson. “We are starting to mesh a little bit, even without our whole team.

Johnson and his teammates were fired up for matchup with LoyalTees, the league’s three-time defending champs.

“We definitely wanted to play the so-called best,” said Johnson, a 6’0, 170-pound Belle Mead native who starred at Montgomery High before heading to TCNJ. “I am definitely eager to see when we have our full team and they have their full team how we really match up.”

Reeling off an 18-11 run to end the first half, AEI built a 22-19 halftime lead at intermission. “That run definitely helped us, mostly on defense that is where we are starting it,” said Johnson.

Outscoring LoyalTees 13-5 over the last eight minutes of the contest, AEI pulled away to the win.

“We keep telling ourselves as long as we play hard of defense, the offense will come,” added Johnson. “That is what happened; it also helped that they were missing shots.”

AEI’s offense was clicking as Jalen Parham tallied a game-high 20 points with Vaughan Anderson chipping in 13.

“It is a good mix,” said Johnson, reflecting on the team’s inside-out scoring prowess. “Jalen can play inside and he can play outside. He is good.”

Concentrating on playmaking duties, Johnson contributed five points in the victory.

“I am more of a ball-handler; of course when we need to score, I can help score as well so I can help both ways,” said Johnson, a 2017 TCNJ alum who tallied 239 points in his college career.

“I am also trying to provide energy on defense. I am a little bit of a jack of all trades. The last few games I was scoring more, this game it was more facilitating. Whatever works I am good as long as we get the win.”

With AEI posting three straight wins to start the summer, Johnson believes the squad could do some big things as the season unfolds.

“It is a confidence builder for sure but then again we haven’t seen every other teams so we don’t know how good they are,” said Johnson. “It is definitely good for our momentum to keep going. We will see how it turns out.”