Kennedy Johnson faced a summer of decisions.

First, the basketball standout from Galloway Township had to pick a high school.

Then, she had to choose a college.

“That was the hard part,” Johnson said with a laugh. “My mom was like, ‘Where are you going to high school?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Then she would ask, ‘Where are you going to college?’ I would say, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Johnson chose Wildwood Catholic for her high school in the summer. The senior then recently verbally committed to attend Michigan State on a basketball scholarship. Johnson played for Sacred Heart High School last season, but the Vineland school closed in June because of low enrollment.

“It’s one of my dreams to be playing Division I college basketball,” Johnson said. “It feels like I accomplished something.”

The 6-foot-2 Johnson averaged 19.5 points and 14.2 rebounds for Sacred Heart, which finished 21-8 and lost to Holy Spirit in the Cape-Atlantic League championship game last season. She was a second-team Press All-Star.

But it was more than the numbers that attracted the college coaches. Kennedy became more than just a back-to-the-basket post player last season. She developed a reliable perimeter game and dependable outside shot.

“Kennedy has improved each year,” said Wildwood Catholic girls coach and former Sacred Heart coach Steve DiPatri. “Last year, she stepped out and shot the 3-pointer and that made her more marketable to colleges. Now, she’s really starting to take the ball to the basket. She has size and athleticism.”

Johnson chose Wildwood Catholic in part because DiPatri is now the Crusaders girls coach. Wildwood Catholic should be one of the CAL’s top teams this season.

“He’s a great coach, and he’s helped me a lot,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she chose Michigan State because she liked how big the school is. The college has more than 36,000 undergraduates.

“I always wanted to go to a big college,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the full (college) experience, the big football games, so many people.”

Johnson will be joining one of the top programs in one of the nation’s best women’s basketball conferences.

Michigan State finished 25-9 and qualified for the NCAA tournament last season under coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans have won at least 20 games for six consecutive seasons and have been to five straight NCAA tournaments. Under NCAA rules, Merchant cannot comment on Johnson until Johnson signs a national letter of intent next month.

“It’s cool to be playing at a big school in a big conference,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be challenging. But if I work hard, everything will work itself out.”

Johnson is not the only member of her family to earn a college scholarship. Her brother Austin, a 2012 St. Augustine Prep graduate, is a sophomore lineman at Penn State and plays on a scholarship. Penn State also is a member of the Big Ten Conference.

“It’s cool we’re in the same conference,” Kennedy said.

But which school will she root for when Penn State meets Michigan State in football?

“Penn State,” she said. “I have to root for my brother.”

Will Austin return the favor when Penn State plays Michigan State in women’s basketball?

“Of course,” Kennedy said. “I hope so.”

Contact Michael McGarry:


Started at The Press in 1993 as an Ocean County reporter. Moved to the copy desk in 1994 until taking over as editor of At The Shore in 1995. Became deputy sports editor in 2004 and was promoted to sports editor in 2007.