Heading into the 2018-19 boys basketball season, Cheyenne Mountain's Javonte Johnson knew he was physically bigger and stronger than his freshman and sophomore years. He also knew he was a better basketball because his mission was always to get better.
And he could feel it.
But it took a little added comfort for him to feel as though he was evolving into the player he was hoping to become. That evolution would carry through to his senior year where he earned Class 4A Player of the Year honors.
"I'd say it came about midway through my junior year," Johnson said. "That's when I got a little bit more attention from colleges and rankers."
They should have been paying attention from the start. Johnson opened his junior campaign with a 40-point performance against Widefield and refused to slow down through the early stages of the year. Although he got within a basket of reaching 40 points on two more occasions, that game against Widefield held up as a season-high.
And Johnson continued to show Cheyenne Mountain fans and Colorado Springs-area basketball fans why he was one of the top players not just in the 719 area code, but the entire state.
"He was never satisfied (with where he was)," coach Elgin Fitzgerald said. "He was always hungry and he always wanted to get better. He wouldn't stop until he was the best."
His overall best came this last season. Johnson was a human highlight reel as awed fans with thrilling dunks while taking any opportunity to diversify his game. He can play with his back to the basket, he can shoot from beyond the arc and he can jump out of the gym.
His best performance this past year came in a 78-66 win over Discovery Canyon. He dropped 50 points while going 16-for-25 from the floor. That was the kind of game that others expected of him and he had no problem balancing those expectations from others with what he expected from himself.
"Not really," Johnson said. "I'm just out there playing basketball. For me I just always expect myself to play hard and win."
After appearing in the 2014 4A boys state championship game, Cheyenne Mountain fell on some hard times. They ended with a losing record for the next four years. As Johnson continued to work, it became apparent that the team was going to thrive both because of his play and his example.
His play doesn't get to stick around forever but when Fitzgerald looks at what Johnson accomplished and how he accomplished it, he believes that the example will stick around and have a positive impact on his teams for years to come.
"The amount of work he put in, I think some of the younger guys in our juniors, sophomores and freshmen, looked up to him," FItzgerald said. "They might not quite get to the level he was at, but they're going to work hard and strive to be the best that they can be."
Johnson plans to continue his paying career at the University of New Mexico. According to Fitzgerald he plans on making the trip to Albuquerque with every intention of cracking the starting lineup. Mainly because that's how he operates.
In order to do that, he'll take the trials and lessons from his time at Cheyenne Mountain and continue to make himself a better basketball player.
"I"ve learned the importance of being a leader on the court and off the court," Johnson said. "That's the biggest thing I'll take with me."
And all the while, Cheyenne Mountain has a better basketball program both because he played for it and his example will continue trickle down to future teams.