By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
The Hill School boys basketball program has had a handful of New York City hoopers make their way to Pottstown, Pa. over the years.
Chase Audige, from Coram on Long Island, led the Blues to a PAISAA title in 2018 before a standout college career at William & Mary and Northwestern. Josh Cameron, a 2023 grad from the Bronx, left his impact in three seasons.
Now, Ethan Johnston looks like the next NYC product ready to star for the Blues. The Queens native arrived at the prestigious boarding school this summer after one season at the Dwight School in Manhattan.
“I kind of left because the competition level isn’t where I wanted it to be,” Johnston said. “I went to look for prep schools because I thought it was a chance for me, myself as a person to grow and as a basketball player.”
Hill School sophomore Ethan Johnston is a high-flying college prospect. (Photo: Courtesy Sarah Bender/Hill School Athletics)
One of Johnston’s former AAU coaches, Adam Berkowitz from New Heights, has placed kids at the Hill School before and has a longstanding relationship with Blues head coach Seth Eilberg. He made the connection to get Johnston to Hill.
Living at the boarding school a few hours away from home is a new experience for Johnston. He’s not only expanding his game.
Hill’s 539 students come from 28 states and 21 countries. The Blues have players from New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Tennessee and California. Senior Aivaras Uosis is from Ireland, and junior Quadri Bashiru is from Nigeria.
“It’s been fun,” Johnston said. “You make friends from all over the world. It almost gives you a balance of basketball and school.”
Basketball-wise Johnston is fitting in with the Blues as well.
Junior point guard and team captain Jacob Meachem leads a new-look group this season. Bashiru and junior sharpshooter Anderson Brndjar are seeing more action this season.
Uosis and senior Nemo Holmes are two of the top newcomers alongside Johnston. Without any established stars, Johnston has had the opportunity to shine at times.
“We’re a pretty young team, and we need our younger guys like him to step up and be in big moments,” Eilberg said. “We’re excited when he’s in those moments. We take him with the ball in a tie game any time. He’s fit in great. He’s a good kid who cares about school, cares about basketball. He’s a good teammate. He’s a good passer. … We have a pretty good group of guys who are unselfish and pass the ball, so Ethan fits in perfectly. “
He’s a lanky 6-foot-5 guard who can shoot and playmake and has the athleticism to make a highlight clip out of nowhere. Defensively, he has long arms and likes to get up and guard.
“I believe I can bring everything to the team,” Johnston said. “I can bring rebounding. I’m a great passer. I can shoot. I can get up. I definitely feel like I can sit down on guards. I like playing defense.”
“I’ve been working on my strength,” he added. “Strength is ultimately going to be the key for me because before I couldn’t go through contact. I’ve always been long, but strength is really a key if you want to get to that next level.”
Johnston received his first Division I offer from Fordham in November. (Photo: Courtesy Sarah Bender/Hill School Athletics)
Johnston’s had some buzz as a college prospect for a little while now. He was a standout at the Pangos All-East freshman and sophomore camp, which gathers some of the best young prospects from the East coast, in the fall before his freshman campaign and was in the cream of the crop game there once again this October.
He spent the summer playing on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit with the New York Renaissance Basketball 15U team, where he was able to showcase himself against some of the top players his age.
“I loved it. It was my first time going to Peach Jam, experiencing the atmosphere,” Johnston said. “Every game there, it’s high intensity level and you’re also competing against the best kids in your age group.”
His recruitment took a big step forward in November when Fordham offered him his first scholarship. Johnston’s former New Heights coach Dwan McMillan is in his second year at Fordham as the director of player development and recruiting coordinator and recognized the strides he’s made over the last several years.
Johnston was a 5-9 guard only a few years ago, but he sprouted to 6-foot in 2022 then added a couple inches to climb up to 6-2 last season. He’s currently listed at 6-5.
“That was amazing,” Johnston said. “It was actually surreal. I felt like I’ve been recognized. All that work I put in has just been paying off. It just motivated me to keep going.”
“They like the growth they’ve seen around my game,” he added.
Johnston won’t be able to talk with college coaches directly until June 15, when coaching staffs can first reach out to high schoolers after their sophomore seasons. Eilberg has told him several Division I schools have been doing their homework, however, including Penn State.
“He’s working really hard,” Eilberg said. “The best basketball is ahead for him for sure. He’s a great kid who’s coachable and wants to get better. I think as he continues to get stronger both physically, and continues to raise his compete level there’s no telling how good he can be.”