Phil Johnson, from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was on the University of Scranton’s basketball team from 1974-78. Johnson was a key component for the team during a four year stretch of Scranton being one of the best teams in the Division III country.
Phil was part of the starting back-court during the 1975-76 season, where Scranton secured its first NCAA Division III National Championship in school history. He helped them finish the next season, 1976-77, with the rank of 3rd in the country. He was also lucrative in helping the team win the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) titles in 1975, 1976 and 1978. In Johnson’s four years as a Royal the team’s record was an impressive 93-29.
Johnson also joined the 1000 point club in 1977, and finished his career with 1,398 points in total. He is also tied for fourth all time in assists at 429. On top of his other accomplishments, he sits at second in school history in games played, at 120 games (which means he only missed 2 games in four years).
Not only was Phil Johnson a leader on the court with his basketball skills, but he was also the team leader. It is well documented that Phil was seen as a leader by everyone on the team, it was his team. The coach of the time, Bob Bessoir, spoke very highly of Phil’s skills and leadership and the positive effect it had on the team.
Again, it is difficult to assume what Johnson’s experiences were like on campus, however we were able to obtain a small amount of personal information on him from the newspaper article detailing him being a leader. We know that he was an outspoken character who was not afraid to assert himself. However, this information does not detail his life and experiences as a Black student athlete.
Undoubtedly, something that had a profound effect on Phil and other Black student athletes and Black college students in general, was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of University of California Regents v. Bakke of 1978. Which ruled that affirmative action can be used as a legal strategy to deal with past discrimination.
Phil was co-recipient of the Les Dickman Award for most valuable senior in 1978. He was inducted into the University of Scranton’s “Wall of Fame” in 2016.
Phil Johnson’s induction into the Wall of Fame at the University of Scranton Athletics Wall of Fame Reception, Class of 2016: