Jay Johnson
Jay Johnson
Year: Class of 2014
Sport: Basketball

Jay Carter Johnson was one of the top scoring point guards in the history of the College of Marin basketball team and a natural team leader from the day he arrived on campus in 1963.

“He was probably the best point guard I ever coached in 26 years of coaching,” says Cal Riemcke, who was College basketball coach at the time and heading up what would be a championship team.

Johnson, a Redwood High School graduate, had gone to UC one year but didn’t make the squad so he decided to play for College of Marin, Riemcke says.

It was a wonderful era of basketball for the College and Johnson shone as a mid-range jumpshooter who scored whenever he was open. During his two years at COM, Johnson scored 1,035 points. He was the third highest scoring player during Riemcke’s 12-year tenure at the college. For conference games he was the second highest scorer.

“And, that was before the three-point shot,” Riemcke noted.

Johnson complemented other team standouts, Brad Busch and Lon O’Connell who each scored more than 500 points as well.

He was a good-looking blond who was always in the best shape of any of the players and had the most assists, 222 in the 1963-64 year. He was also an outstanding free thrower. In 1965, he shot 14 free throws in a row in one game against Santa Rosa and made a record 23 consecutive free throws over a span of three games for an overall free throw percentage rate of 83.8 that year.

“He deserves this,” says former teammate Jim Halm, who was a couple years behind him in high school and later a teammate. 

The year he arrived at the college, the gymnasium had burned down so the team used to practice and play home games at high schools in the area. Halm remembers watching him play at Redwood High.

““He was a very squared away individual, a class act and neat as a pin,” Halm says. “It used to be a real pleasure to watch him play.”

Johnson used to work in summer recreation program at the high school and took Halm under his wing.

“I don’t think I would’ve gotten really involved in basketball if not for Jay,” Halm says. “That’s how influential he was in my development.” Johnson and Riemcke convinced Halm to play basketball at COM.

Despite his star player status, Johnson was, by all accounts, an unassuming man with a slight stutter who could take a good kidding.

Riemcke remembers a prank in which Halm and another teammate impersonated a local radio station personality calling Johnson for an interview and asked him a series of crazy questions before he finally realized it was a hoax.

He led others on the team by example and by being able to say the right thing at the right time,” Riemcke says. “He was very humble player. That’s why his teammates respected him so much.

From College of Marin, Johnson transferred to UC-Los Angeles. Unfortunately he had only a year of eligibility, which cost him a place on the team. In the summers, he played in adult league competitions and semi pro teams.

After college, Johnson joined the Navy. He was a captain and serving at the Pentagon when he died of a heart attack in 1999. He was 55 and had been out jogging. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

He was married and had a daughter, Kristina, according to Halm.