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Cavell Johnson Earns 2008 Male America East Conference Sportmanship Award
To be nominated, an individual or team must have demonstrated consistently the values of caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility in his or her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete or team nominees must be a member of an intercollegiate athletics team during the 2007-08 academic year.
UMBC women’s basketball standout Kristin Drabyn won the Female Sportsmanship Award last season.
Johnson, a member of the 2008 America East Championship UMBC men's basketball team, transferred to UMBC for his senior season after committing a transgression at another Division I institution. Johnson made the best of this second chance, becoming a team captain before even setting foot on the court for the Retrievers. Despite having to sit out the 2006-07 season because of NCAA transfer rules, he became immensely popular on campus for his school spirit and his attendance at nearly every other team's events on campus. During this past season, he quickly made an impact on the floor, but during a four-game funk, he willingly offered to relinquish his starting spot for the good of the team. Johnson came off the bench for the rest of the season while his team eventually won the America East title and played in the NCAA Championship.
Johnson received verbal abuse and specific negative attention at opponents' arenas because of his history at his previous institution. Rather than defending his character or fighting back, Johnson turned the other way and ignored these fans, never retaliating or escalating the situation. Near the end of the season, a reporter who covered Johnson's previous team wanted to interview Johnson on his past. Though given the option to decline the interview by University administrators, Johnson felt the need to speak out and explain how he had used that situation to his advantage and grown from it into a responsible citizen.
Off the court, Johnson worked at the Rising Stars camp as a summer counselor and became good friends with a camper, seven-year-old David Robinson. Johnson encouraged David to come out to some UMBC games once the season rolled around, and when David did attend, Johnson gave him VIP treatment. David sat underneath the far basket so that during pre-game warm-ups and at the end of the game Johnson could give him high-fives. Johnson, who says he could easily see himself as a mentor or coach in the future, also had David walk out on the court with him on Senior Night. Johnson became a role model not only for his teammates, but also for a child that looked up to him.
America East began awarding a conference Sportsmanship Award to a male and female student-athlete for the 2005-06 academic year based on the same principles and criteria as the NCAA Sportsmanship Awards.