“God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
That is the motto that Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson and her family are choosing to live by these days. The last month has been a whirlwind after learning that Jarvis Johnson, the youngest son in the Johnson clan, was not medically cleared to play basketball at the University of Minnesota after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Jarvis was a top basketball recruit and held offers from Baylor, Michigan State and Wisconsin among others before choosing to stay at home to compete for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jarvis learned the news after completing medical testing after moving onto campus for summer classes. The news was released by Minnesota on Monday, June 16. The Johnson’s are hopeful that he will be medically cleared in the future.
Seanna and Jarvis share a tight bond – one so tight that people often refer to them as twins. The two both wear No. 12 on the basketball court, which is a trend they picked up from their older brother Curtis, who used the number during his playing career. The two are just 14 months apart and their mother, Tanisha Johnson, often refers to them as peanut butter and jelly or her Kobe (Bryant) and Shaq (O’Neal).
“He pushes her to be her best and she pushes him to be his best,” Tanisha said. “They have a phenomenal relationship because they’re so close together. Everyone thought they were twins for so long.”
In their days growing up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the two spent a lot of time in the gym. However, it was Jarvis who was typically the encourager to get better in the gym.
With so much shared time together in the gym, it was only natural for both siblings and the entire Johnson family to have a tough time comprehending that Jarvis’ career was possibly over.
Jarvis broke the news to her via a simple text, “I’m done.” She won’t forget those words or what he said when she phoned him after. The first time Seanna walked onto the gym in the Sukup basketball practice after learning the news she cried.
“He texts me every day,” Seanna said. “I cried every time he’d text me for the first few days because he’d say, ‘You’re my hero. Thanks for keeping playing.’ I would think, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I just walked in the gym and cried.”
It was difficult for her to believe that the little brother and best friend that would motivate her each day to play could no longer play the sport they both loved.
“I felt guilty because he loved the game more than anybody,” she said.
A lot of thoughts crossed her mind after she learned the news. She contemplated quitting basketball because the thought of playing when her brother couldn’t was too much. She wondered how it was even possible to enjoy the sport anymore.
After the initial shock was over she knew she had even more motivation to play for Jarvis, who she calls her hero. She even got a tattoo to remind herself. It was the words Jarvis used on of his first posts to social media after finding out he could no longer play basketball, “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
Her new tattoo is not her first however. Several years ago she got another one that reads “I believe in miracles.” That tattoo signifies the day her brother passed out during a basketball practice and went into cardiac arrest. After several minutes, Jarvis was revived and rushed to the hospital.
He remained hospitalized for weeks with a bleak prognosis.
Jarvis would eventually return to the basketball court and the brother sister duo would earn a combined seven state titles for De La Salle High School.
As Cyclone fans already know, Seanna would make Cyclone history in her first two seasons after crashing the boards and becoming the fastest Cyclone to reach 500 career rebounds, hauling in 500 in just 59 career games. She would nearly average a double-double with 11.7 points and a Big 12-leading 9.2 rebounds per game in her sophomore campaign.
After Jarvis was initially declared medically ineligible, Seanna told her mother she would use this as motivation to improve her game for the two of them.
“I know she is super excited for the season to start and take it to the next level,” Tanisha said.
With this added motivation, the sky is the limit for Seanna as she enters her junior season with the Cyclones. Though she isn’t sure exactly how else she will continue to honor Jarvis during her final two seasons, she knows she will continue to play for him and has the backing of her Cyclone teammates who have taken to social media to support both Seanna and Jarvis. The hashtag #DoItForJarvis has already garnered hundreds of mentions on social media.