With everything going on in the world this last year, finding something that brings you joy and comfort is more important than ever. For PJ Mitchell-Johnson (‘21), that has always been basketball. However, Mitchell-Johnson said the realization that he could do something more with basketball came his “freshman year […] at Edmond North when I was just trying out for the basketball team, and as a freshman, I made varsity. So I just thought I could do something with this. I took that and ran with it. I have been playing ever since.”
It was like he discovered a new life path for himself in one fell swoop. As he laughed and smiled beneath his mask, PJ thought back to those earlier days, and most importantly, what he loves about basketball. To him, it is not simply a game, but a place to “take my mind off things, whether that’s what is going on in my life or in the world around me. It brings a whole bunch of people together to do one thing and achieve one goal.” Although his eyes light up every time he thinks about basketball, it is dreaming about his years to come at Emporia State University that really makes PJ come alive.
Mitchell-Johnson described how “it felt like home” the minute he stepped on campus. From meeting the coaches to seeing the gym, he knew Emporia State was his next step. PJ explained how excited he was to “just get to campus and see everybody; to meet new people.” Since this last year has been so isolating, PJ said just how nice it will be to take steps towards a regular college experience filled with a world of firsts. First practice with his new teammates, first game, class, just everything that comes with being a college freshman in a new universe. PJ also talked about how he is looking forward to “just playing and competing as a whole.”
Unfortunately, another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic was the college athletics recruitment process. Mitchell-Johnson spoke about how it was difficult to find his new home, as teams “didn’t get to play. Along with that, college coaches couldn’t even come out and watch when we did play.” On the bright side, however, PJ explained that while “it kind of hurt, I still feel like I found a home.” PJ talked about how the most important thing about the recruitment process is finding the place “that is the right fit for [you]” — not what seems like the easiest. To him, Emporia State is the best fit all around. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (a famous Kansas native, just like Emporia State) said: “There is no place like home,” and that is most certainly true for PJ!