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Issue:
January 2019 - Cavell Johnson

Slam dunks, love and positivity

Titans’ head coach has a message of hope for everyone

by Paul Knowles

In many ways, Cavell Johnson is the quintessential basketball player – he’s 2.05 metres (over 6 feet 8 inches), in terrific shape, and dedicated to the game he’s been involved with since he was a kid.

But forget the tough-guy b-ball stereotype – because Johnson, former player and now head coach of the KW Titans of the National Basketball League of Canada, sees his mission in life as “infiltrating minds with love and positivity.”

In fact, he has launched a brand – well, to be precise, a “BR4ND” – to promote the cause of kindness and love for others. “BR4ND” stands for “Building Reputations For Nurturing Development”.

Now, let’s be clear – Johnson is thoroughly dedicated to the Titans, to leading his team into the playoffs, and to building the Titans’ exposure in the community. Early in the season, the team sits in the middle of the 10-team league’s standings, which points to improvement over last season. The current Titan roster includes six Canadians and six Americans.

Johnson says the team has “absolutely” been embraced by the KW community. As a player in season one, and the head coach since late last season, he has been “part of the program since year one,” and he says, “I’ve seen the growth of interest, and turn-out at the games. There is definitely still room for growth, but the people who have been with us from day one, their enthusiasm continues to grow, and they spread the word.”

Johnson is an American, from Maryland, but chooses to live in KW, partly so he can spend the off-season spreading the word… creating awareness and excitement about the team, and about his personal causes. “That’s why I was here all summer,” he says, “to try to connect with the community.”

And one of his goals, he says, is “to infiltrate minds”… which might sound a touch ominous, until he adds, “with love and positivity.”

He says he’s just following through on his upbringing. “I was raised in a very loving and expressive family. And outside of my family, some of the more influential people in my life have influenced the lives of others through an appreciation of love, and kindness, and caring.”

His focus on such “positivity” was tested, and ultimately strengthened, by a tragedy – “losing my brother to suicide in February, 2017.” That made Johnson even more determined “to help others be kind to others and to seek help for themselves” when confronted with mental illness.

Johnson takes his message of hope everywhere he can – in speaking engagements to schools and community groups, or over a drink in a café. He says that although BR4ND is a registered entity in the US, it is not designed to be a money-making endeavor; it’s an initiative designed “to make an impact in a positive way.”

“I like to encourage people to encourage other people,” he says, “sharing God’s love and a positive mindset.”

The head coach has one professional regret – he doesn’t get to play basketball any more. He had a long career as a basketball player, before being appointed head coach. He played college basketball. He played professionally in the USA, China, Hungary, Greece and Finland, and in 2014 was the NBL Canada defensive player of the year, playing for the Brampton A’s, his second NBL Canada team (he was with the Saint John Mill Rats in New Brunswick in 2012-2013, and returned to the NBL Canada to join the inaugural KW Titans in 2016). The Titans’ ownership group includes Ball Construction and local entrepreneur, Leon Martin.

Johnson says, “I’ve played it my whole life. I love the teamwork behind it. I have grown to have a deep appreciation for the way certain mental approaches to the game can transfer to different aspects of your life.” That sounds like a coach – but he admits “I miss playing, a lot. I’ll do some shooting contests with some of my players, but I don’t play right now.”

But he does stay in shape! “I love to work out. Physical fitness is going to be a part of my life no matter if I am coaching or not.”

And clearly, so is communicating a message of love and positivity to everyone Johnson happens to encounter.

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