Nets player Cam Johnson visits Mill Basin school to motivate young STEM students

PS 236 Mill Basin students pose for a photo with Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson during a recent visit.
Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Three-point shot!

Fifth-grade students at Mill Basin’s PS 236 got a treat when Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson showed up at their school.

Johnson recently visited a class with dozens of students enrolled in the NETSTEM program. Kings County’s home team is providing an online course that covers science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for middle school and high school students throughout Brooklyn. The course includes basketball-related games like designing the ultimate prototype of a basketball sneaker, understanding game data, and game development studio.

“These kids have a fire in them,” Johnson said in an exclusive interview with Brooklyn Paper. “The Nets’ commitment to the schools of Brooklyn is very high level. The programs they have in place and the way they make it easy for us to kind of insert ourselves into the area is impressive.”

Johnson is a science enthusiast. As a student, he was “pretty solid” in those subjects, he said.

Kids were eager to ask Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson questions during his visit to the Mill Basin school.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Now, he is especially interested in space. Before his visit to PS 236K, he met with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Museum of Natural History to discuss the coolest space facts they could think of. The athlete also owns a telescope. However, he says discussions about science are different when it comes to the game.

“We have a whole analytics department; they’ll tell you if something’s going wrong,” he said. “They study every step so that we don’t have to. They provide us with data about shooting, focusing on factors like how much arc you put on your shot. They track every one of those for every shot we take. If everything is business as usual, they won’t bother because we want everything to flow naturally.”

The NBA player dropped into one of the classrooms while the kids used Nets software to calculate the optimal angles for animated players to shoot and score. Johnson sat between a couple of them to offer assistance.

Later, there was a lively pop quiz in the school gym. Johnson quizzed the kids on metric systems, sports data, and methods for calculating basketball averages and percentages. For each correct answer, Johnson handed out a Nets T-shirt and a high-five. The kids eagerly raised their hands and cheered for each other.

Before the kids headed to their next class, Johnson fielded their questions about the NBA, his team and teammates, his college life before joining the league, and the latest in his athletic career.

“I was really impressed by their curiosity, by their confidence and, honestly, by their abilities,” said Johnson. “They were engaged, which is cool to see. Kids these days, their attention spans are getting a little shorter, but these guys were locked in the entire time, excited, ready to answer questions, being confident in their answers and being confident in the questions that they had to ask, which I think is really important. I had a lot of fun, I hope they did too. I look forward to seeing them again.”

Cam Johnson popped into one of the STEM classrooms.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Johnson shared his own experience as a student with the science-savvy kids to reinforce their motivation to pursue higher education.

“I was able to stay in college for three years before I was drafted, which not many people in the league get to do, and that wasn’t too much suspense, I loved it,” he said. “As you go to college, getting to the NBA is not guaranteed. They always love putting out the numbers of percentages of student-athletes that play in college and then percentages of student-athletes that go on to play professionally and those percentages of those who to play in the NBA aren’t great. So, making it was not something that I was ever confidently expecting. It was just a process that I enjoyed. I made so many great relationships along the way, I was able to continue academically and it felt right and important to do so.”

Johnson said his court experience taught him a valuable lesson applicable to everyday life, which he wanted to impart to the kids.

“Anytime you go through something hard, just understand that it’s preparing you for whatever’s next in your life or preparing you to take a step forward in some way,” he said. “You rarely learn if all you do is succeed. It takes a couple stumbles along the way to find yourself and to make yourself a better person.”