Abbotsford resident and former Fraser Valley University Cascades men’s basketball star Mark Johnson will make his international debut on Sunday as a member of the Guam National Basketball Team.
Johnson played for the Cascades from 2015 to 2019 and listed Palm Springs, Calif. As his hometown, but he was actually born in Guam and lived there for 15 years.
“My father is from Tacoma, Washington, and my mother was born in Hawaii”, he told the Cascades website. “Their families both moved to Guam and they met there. I’m not gonna lie, (living in Guam) was like heaven. If you were to compare it to something much bigger, it’s like Hawaii in a way. It is surrounded by warm water and has many palm trees and a very laid back lifestyle. It’s really amazing there.
Johnson will adapt to the Guam national basketball team in two FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Amman, Jordan. Team Guam face Hong Kong twice, on June 13 and 15, looking to improve their chances of qualifying for the 20-team FIBA Asia tournament to be held August 17-29 in Indonesia.
Guam is a small island located in the Western Pacific Ocean and is a territory of the United States. About 168,000 people live on the 549 square kilometer island. People born in Guam are considered US citizens.
Johnson made his basketball debut in Guam, playing for the Tamuning Typhoons club team and his school team in Saint Paul Christian. His family would eventually move to Palm Springs, and he then played two seasons at local junior college, College of the Desert, before joining the Cascades in 2015.
A knee injury sidelined Johnson for the 2015-16 campaign, but the 6’6 “forward has been a mainstay of the program for the next three seasons, finishing among the all-time leaders of the U Sports era. des Cascades (722, eighth), rebounds (471, fourth) and three points (131, fifth) He graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology and an Extended Minor in Philosophy.
While at UFV, Johnson took root in the local basketball community beyond campus, and these days he’s a basketball club manager with BC Bounce in Abbotsford while s ‘training to become a firefighter.
Throughout his college basketball career, Johnson was recruited by Guam Basketball Confederation president and men’s team head coach EJ Calvo to play for the national team, but his athletic commitments and Academics did not fit the team’s schedule. But with college now over, the opportunity in 2021 was too good to pass up.
He leaves this week for Jordan, where the matches will be played in a “bubble” setting without fans in the stands. The top two teams in Group C, which includes Australia and New Zealand as well as Guam and Hong Kong, will automatically qualify for the FIBA tournament, while the third team will play in a last-ditch qualifying event.
“I think the game will be similar to U Sports,” said the 28-year-old. “There will be more professional players involved but the style of basketball with FIBA rules will be similar. I am excited to play. I will be playing the three point (little forward) and the stretch four (power forward), and I can’t wait to step into that role.
“As for representing Guam, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but it’s never been good. I am blessed to be able to do this now. There were a lot of reasons I couldn’t play before, and it’s a blessing to be able to do so.
Guam’s current FIBA ranking is 85th and the country’s best achievement was silver at the 1999 FIBA Oceania Championship.
-With the files of the UFV Cascades