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King’s baseball star swings for PSL championship

King High’s De’Nayus Johnson JOHNSON FAMILY PHOTO

King High’s De’Nayus Johnson

By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Martin Luther King High School has been a top contender in baseball over the past several seasons. Not only have the Crusaders produced outstanding teams, they’ve also produced outstanding talent under the direction of Head Coach Norm Taylor.

De’Nayus Johnson is one of King’s top baseball collegiate prospects. The junior, who bats and throws right-handed, has been productive at various positions on the field: third base, second base, outfield and on the mound as a pitcher.

“I love the game and like to play a lot of it,” Johnson told the Michigan Citizen. “I’ve been playing since I was five.

Johnson’s father, Raphael, says De’Nayus started playing in the Barney McCoskey League with tee-ball. “He took to the game as a fish taking to water,” the elder Johnson said. “He’s a real natural for the game. He knows what to do.”

Coach Taylor says he has great expectation for his student player. “He’s a very determined athlete,” he said. “He has the desire to be one of the better top baseball prospects in the metro area. He’s definitely a college-bound student-athlete and is ready for the college game. He’s one of the few kids to embrace the mentality of the student-athlete.”

After playing youth ball at seven-years-old in the Southfield Youth Baseball League, Johnson played travel ball for the Southfield Cardinals from ages eight to 12.  He played multiple positions, especially pitcher, center field, and third base. At  13, he played for both the Detroit Braves and the Detroit Ice Travel Team. During that time, De’Nayus met Coach Taylor.

“(Taylor) gave me his card,” Raphael Johnson said. “He wanted my son to come play for King. I wanted a school that was suitable for not just baseball but for education.”

King had both, he said. “After I took the test for King’s MSAT (Mathematics, Science and Technology) Program, (Coach Taylor) came out with one of his players, De’Nayus said. “Taylor said King had a strong program and wanted to see if I could fit in. I played where the coaches asked me. I had a lot to show and prove.”

So far he has. De’Nayus Johnson has participated in several baseball camps. And since playing at King for the past two years, he has received letters and interest from Illinois State, Indiana Tech, Ohio University, University of Miami (Fla.) and Rutgers.

“We’ve also heard from Michigan State, (University of) Michigan and Toledo,” his father said.  He’s hanging in there and currently has a 2.95 overall GPA.”

Not only has De’Nayus excelled in baseball, he was also an excellent swimmer as a member of the Crusaders varsity swim team competing in the 50 and 100-meter freestyles.

“Swimming was good off-season workout,” Johnson said. You use every muscle in your body.”

Johnson said he will by-pass swimming this year to concentrate on baseball. He believes his chances of getting a scholarship are greater with baseball than with swimming.

“I feel we have a good chance of winning a PSL title this year because of our experienced players,” he said.

Taylor added that Johnson will be his number one hurler on the mound this season as well as one of the team leaders. “De’Nayus should play well enough to lead the team on the field,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the impact players on the team. We’re expecting a lot out of him. De’Nayus will do well.”

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