Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 219-pound forward, figured Grant had received the news about his appeal to the NCAA. It was a nerve-wracking wait as Johnson walked to Grant's office. He had already waited many months to hear whether he would get to play in the first eight games of the 2019-20 season.
“I was kind of hoping it was good,” Johnson said Thursday, “but I was kind of expecting the worst. He told me I got it, and I was super excited. We ended up calling my dad and telling him I got it, so it was really good. It relieved a lot of pressure because I was so anxious to get out there and play from the start instead of waiting until the second half of the season.”
Johnson relayed the news to his teammates with a group chat message.
“Me and Chase are pretty close,” said redshirt junior guard Jhery Matos. “We hang out and talked about it a lot. He’s been through a lot. I’m happy for him.”
Johnson transferred from the University of Florida to Dayton in January. He filed an appeal with the NCAA to receive a waiver so he could have three full seasons of eligibility and play right away at the start of this season. NCAA rules require transfers to attend their new school for a full academic year before playing in games, but the NCAA does consider appeals.
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Johnson’s argument for playing right away centered around his injury history at Florida. He suffered concussions in both his seasons with the Florida Gators and missed time because of a neck injury and an illness.
Johnson also expressed to the NCAA a desire to play closer to home. Ripley, W.Va., is about a three-hour drive from Dayton. Johnson’s dad, Chad, works four days a week with America Electric Power in Columbus, so he will often be even closer to Dayton.
The athletic departments at Dayton and Florida combined to make an argument on Johnson’s behalf, convincing the NCAA to let him play when the season begins Nov. 9 with a home game against Indiana State.
“(Florida) helped out a bunch,” Johnson said. ” Without them and the athletic department here, I don’t think any of this would have been possible. A huge thank you to them.”
If Johnson’s appeal had not been granted, he couldn’t have played until the Dec. 14 game against Drake. He would have missed four of the most important games of the season: the three games in the Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27) and the game against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 8 in Phoenix, Ariz.
“It would have been rough, honestly,” Johnson said, “but I would have looked at it as a learning experience to get more of what coach Grant wants.”
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Johnson doesn’t know exactly what his role will be but said he’s ready to do whatever Dayton needs him to do. He wants to bring energy to the rotation and described himself as a “hustle guy” who can work the boards on both ends of the court.
Senior guard Trey Landers has seen that in practice. He said having Johnson available all season is very important.
“He brings a lot to the able as far as his versatility and being a monster on the glass,” Landers said. “It’s going to be huge for us with him and Obi (Toppin) connecting together. It’s going to be great.”
Johnson will get his first experience as a Flyer against an outside opponent Saturday when Dayton plays Cincinnati in a closed-door scrimmage. Then a week later on Nov. 2, Dayton fans will see him play for the first time in an exhibition game against Cedarville University.
“I’m ready to play honestly,” Johnson said. “Just play my game and not be nervous. Just play relaxed. We’re all ready to roll.”