Last year, Johni Broome was named the player of the year in Hillsborough County by the Tampa Bay Basketball Coaches Association. He became the second player from Tampa Catholic to win the award in a four-year span (2017-20), joining Kevin Knox III.
Both led the Crusaders to a state championship game appearance as seniors. And they each ended up signing with Division I-A schools in Kentucky.
That is where the similarities end.
Knox III, who became the county’s all-time leading scorer, went on to play one season (2017-18) with the national-title contending Wildcats before becoming a lottery pick with the New York Knicks.
Broome was not as coveted as a recruit, despite having 21 double-doubles as a senior last season. He ended up signing with Morehead State, which advanced to the NCAA tournament just four times in the past four decades entering this season, the last coming in 2011.
Yet when the tournament’s opening round games start today, there will be only one team representing basketball-rich Kentucky: Morehead State.
And it was Broome who played the most pivotal role in the Eagles getting there.
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward has continued to rack up double-doubles, ranking 10th nationally in that category with 10. In fact, Broome (13.9 points, 9 rebounds per game) has averaged nearly a double-double for the entire season.
Two weeks ago, at the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Broome continued to shine, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. In the championship game, he scored a career-high 27 points and had 12 rebounds to lead Morehead State to the title and an automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Broome was named the Lute Olsen Award player of the week for that performance. He also was selected as the Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year and is one of only three freshmen to ever be chosen as the conference’s tournament MVP.
Now, Broome has the spotlight as the Eagles, a No, 14 seed, take on No. 3 seed West Virginia at 9:50 p.m. tonight. And all eyes will be on his matchup with another 6-10 forward, Derek Culver of the Mountaineers.
A big-time battle. A big-time moment.
All for someone is finally getting recognized for thriving in big-time situations.