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Tyren Johnson, the architect of the rise to Pro A of ADA Blois

It is a melancholy colossus who welcomes us, Wednesday, June 17 in the morning, in a residential building near the Saint-Louis cathedral, in Blois. Before flying to the United States for the summer break, Tyren Johnson will once again celebrate his team’s triumph, this time at the Château de Chambord, in the presence of elected officials and sponsors: “It’s really new for me to celebrate a victory. I was MVP [meilleur joueur de la saison] twice and I didn’t show off the trophy because I was too ashamed to stay in Pro B.”

After being rejected in 2018 because of a non-compliant training center and then stopped by the Covid-19 two years later when it was at the top of the Pro B championship, the Abeille des Aydes (ADA) Blois Basket won his ticket for the Betclic Elite (the first basketball division) on Saturday June 11 in the playoffs against Antibes. Largely thanks to Tyren Johnson and his legendary shots.

Read our article: The legal crusade of the Blois basketball club, banned from the elite

“I don’t know of any American who’s been at a Pro B club for five years. The months he wasn’t there because of a knee injury, we were really tough, struggling. He is a man who is both essential and very endearing, confides Paul Seignolle, the president of ADA Blois Basket who does not know if Tyren Johnson, 33, will return. But my wish is that he stays. »

Tyren Johnson grew up in Vacherie, a small Louisiana town on the Mississippi. His mother raised him alone along with his eight siblings. As an adult, he grew closer to his father, a Vietnam veteran. “He was a housekeeper. Now he essentially lives off federal aid. Vacherie is one of the poorest places in the United States. It had three slave plantations. Today, the locals have retained a slave mentality, passed down from previous generations. They stay here and accept their fate, the poverty, the violence… It’s the jungle over there, man”, he said. Shootings against the backdrop of settling scores are commonplace.

Speaking to Young Black Americans

In his spare time, Tyren Johnson works as a graphic designer and creator of beats (the instrumental part) for hip-hop artists who request him through his merchant site. He’s also an avid YouTuber. His channel is filled with videos that he films in the morning and edits until late at night to tell, in English, his daily life as a basketball player abroad. He distils there lessons of personal development, in the form of “Morning Walk”, morning strolls on car parks of shopping areas without charm, near the motel of the city where the ADA Blois Basket must play.

“In my community, they are surprised that I am walking around safely, iPhone at arm’s length, in a place that I do not know”, he says. On one of them, Tyren Johnson films himself on a walk in Paris, in his thirty-one. He comes to Gumbo Yaya, a fried chicken and waffle restaurant that reminds him of the flavors of his Louisiana.

Tyren Johnson is aimed primarily at young black Americans with limited horizons. And by extension to all basketball fans who doubt their abilities: “I have always been talented. I never doubted my life because I was rich very early. At 11, by mowing lawns, cleaning up to 15 cars a day at $20 each, I could earn $2,000 a month. It’s when people think I’m not strong enough that I feel like a failure. »

Yaya, his Belgian-Togolese wife, met during a previous contract in Aalst, in Flanders, is his mainstay. “It is with her that he finds balance and stability”, recognizes Paul Seignolle, the president of the club. Tyren Johnson confides: “When you live in another country, you realize who cares about you. In my case, in twelve years of professional basketball abroad, no one from my family has ever come to see me, even though I offered to pay for the trip. Only a friend made the effort and he was a drug dealer… In fact, it breaks me. »

“Become a full-time coach”

He fears his summer return to the country. “I bought a house in Houston, Texas, because as soon as I come home to Louisiana, people come asking me for money. All. Of course, with a good heart, I offered school uniforms, complete outfits for the local football team, but now I’m almost afraid to answer when someone says hello. The last time, a former high school classmate, after a few seconds, asked me for 600 dollars to buy a plane ticket. At home, I am asked to give. Elsewhere, I am asked to teach. »

Read also: Pro A final: how coach Sacha Obradovic took Monaco to the top of French basketball

Tyren Johnson refers in particular to these lucrative basketball camps for American teenagers, in which he attends each summer. To his YouTube subscribers, he simmers scholarly videos in which he analyzes in detail the game of NBA stars. “It’s an investment. With this job, I want to prove that I will one day be able to become a full-time coach. »

In the meantime, the ADA Blois Basket coach, Mickaël Hay, intends to give the player a new dimension, perhaps not up to the ambitions of the person concerned: If he stays, he will have a key role in relation to the foreign contingent that will arrive. He knows the club perfectly and will have a role of facilitator, on and off the pitch. But he will have less playing time, ” warns the Blois coach.

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