Former Gopher and New Prague basketball star Ron Johnson, 76, died unexpectedly of an aneurysm on Sunday night.
Johnson, the state’s first boys’ high school basketball player to score 2,000 career points, became an icon as a sophomore. The 6-7 standout was a one-man show, leading New Prague to the state tournament in his junior and senior seasons in 1955 and 1956. They lost in the semifinals both years.
Johnson was residing in St. Cloud, Minn., at the time of his death.
In 1956, Johnson set a state tournament record by scoring 109 points in New Prague’s three games at a sold-out Williams Arena. That record would stand until Randy Breuer of Lake City scored 113 points in 1979.
He also set the state tournament individual game record that year with a 48-point performance against Winona. That record stood until Jimmy Jensen of Bemidji had a 50-point outing in 1978.
Johnson concluded his prep career with 2,190 points, a state record at the time, which was surpassed by Belview’s Jon Hagen in 1957.
Johnson went on to play for the Gophers from 1957-1960, finishing his collegiate career with 1,335 points (a 19.7 points per game average). He was a third-team All-America his junior and senior seasons, and was the team’s most valuable player his final year.
He played in the East-West college all-star game at Madison Square Garden in 1960. He later would become a second-round NBA draft choice of the Detroit Pistons.
Later that year, Johnson was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was his only season in the NBA.