AUBURN, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s not typical to see a Division II basketball player transfer to a major college basketball team and be expected to contribute.
Then again, Chaney Johnson isn’t your typical basketball player.
The Birmingham-area native played high school ball at Thompson High School, where he averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game during his senior season, before heading approximately 100 miles away to play for coach Jon Shulman at the University of Alabama Huntsville.
During his time at UAH, Johnson exploded, earning Gulf South Conference Player of the Year, being named to the Gulf South Conference First Team and being named the Alabama Sports Writers Association Small College Athlete of the Year.
Ultimately, Johnson earned the opportunity to play major college basketball and after entering the transfer portal this offseason he received interest from several schools before deciding to transfer to Auburn.
The opportunity to play at this level is one that Bruce Pearl says Johnson is excited about.
“All fall, he’s treated every single day here like it was his birthday,” said Pearl. “Just so excited to be at Auburn, having come from division II and been on a bus and now going to Auburn and getting on a plane, he was prepared for that by Jon Shulman at Huntsville and now he wants to take advantage of it here.”
Johnson stands at 6-foot-7-inches and is listed as a guard on Auburn’s website. However, in a press conference previewing the upcoming season, Pearl mentioned him in competition with Jaylin Williams for minutes at the power forward position.
“Those are two of my best athletes, Jaylin Williams and Chaney Johnson,” said Pearl.
Pearl believes that Williams is a better passer and playmaker than Johnson but compliments the hard effort with which Johnson plays, even though it could lead to foul trouble. The combination of playmaking and effort from the two is something that Pearl thinks will be very complimentary of each other.
“My guess will be foul trouble will be an issue for him with how hard he plays and how active he is which I think is a good thing, so actually they do a great job of kind of complimenting each other,” said Pearl.
Despite the chance of foul trouble, Pearl compares Johnson to two other Auburn players who have become known for their effort, especially on the defensive end of the court.
“When you fly around, defensively, you can be really good in our system and Chaney flies around,” said Pearl. “Dylan Cardwell flies around, K.D. [Johnson] flies around, we’ve got some other guys who will do it too. Chaney has really showed up at the defensive end and in rebounding, he’s really athletic.”
While Johnson is still considered the new kid on the block, he’s no stranger to the Tigers.
Last season, Auburn squared off with UAH in an exhibition game to begin the season and Johnson made some noise.
He scored 14 points and added five rebounds with two assists. The performance wasn’t something that Johni Broome noticed at first but after hearing that the Tigers were recruiting Johnson in the transfer portal, Broome went back and watched the film.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, we played him last year and he was pretty good but I didn’t really think too much of him,” Broome said at SEC Media Days. “When coach said we were recruiting him I went back and looked at his film and I was a little surprised, well I wasn’t surprised, I was kind of like shocked that he surprised me with how good he is.”
As for how Broome thinks Johnson will transition from Division II to Division I? Broome thinks he’ll be just fine.
“Once he got here, seeing him one on one in person, his skill level can go against anyone in our conference,” said Broome.
Auburn will open up its season against Baylor on November 7 in South Dakota.