Tampa Catholic High’s Johni Broome has not exactly stuck to family traditions. It starts with his name. His father is John. His brother is John Jr.
The Broomes could have continued the theme, but decided on a slight variation when their second son was born. Thus Johni. Even the pronunciation is different (Jah-nigh).
When it comes to sports, the Broomes zeroed in on football. John, the patriarch of the family, played. So did John Jr., who set the single-season Plant City High record for sacks as a senior in 2015 and went on to play at Florida International.
Johni? He took up football at an early age before concentrating on something else: basketball.
That had a lot to do with Johni’s height. In middle school, he was already taller than all of his classmates. During the first two years of high school, he grew about 6 inches. Now, he stands 6 feet, 9 inches.
“My dad and brother are both above 6 feet,” Johni said. “I just kept growing.”
The size comes from his mother’s side of the family. Johni’s grandfather is 6-8. One of his uncles is 6-11.
Because of his stature, Johni was coveted by basketball coaches. So he switched sports. For two years, Johni played at Plant City, the same school where his father, older brother and countless other relatives starred in football.
That did not last.
Last season, Johni transferred to Tampa Catholic because of academics — and increased playing time.
“It was hard for my parents,” Johni said. “They struggled rearranging their work schedules to take me to school and pick me up from practices and games. But it was something we felt was best for my future.”
As a Crusader, Johni joined a veteran team that had played together for years, first on a travel team, then in high school. Even the coaching staff did not know much about their newcomer.
“Johni was obviously tall, but there wasn’t much else to go on at first because he didn’t play that much at Plant City,” Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said.
Johni endeared himself to his new teammates by using his length to swat shots, grab rebounds and score inside. Last season, he averaged 15.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while helping the Crusaders reach the state semifinals.
Still, Johni vowed to get better.
He worked with his father in the summer on outdoor courts in Plant City. They did rebound drills. They went over moves around the basketball.
Johni showed his skills in travel games. Colleges took notice. He became a three-star recruit with offers from schools such as Bryant and Jacksonville. In November, Johni signed with Morehead State, a Division I program in Kentucky.
“I liked the campus, the coaches,” Johni said. “They did a good job recruiting me.”
This season, he has been nearly unstoppable in the paint. Facing a brutal schedule and going up against players committed to big-time colleges, Johni has more than held his own, often neutralizing an opponent’s top big man.
“Johni might not be the most athletic guy on this team, but he has used all his talents he has to his advantage,” Dziagwa said. “He’s gone up against guys going to Baylor and Duke and other top schools and played extremely well.”
This season, Johni is averaging 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds. He has led Tampa Catholic to its fifth straight state semifinal appearance.
By winning the next two games, Johni can truly make a name for himself by claiming a state title, something no other member of his family was able to do in their signature sport.
State boys basketball semifinals
At RP Funding Center, Lakeland; admission $13, parking $10
2A: Bayshore Christian vs. Orlando Christian Prep, noon Wednesday
4A: Lake Highland Prep vs. Tampa Catholic, noon Thursday
6A: East Lake vs. Bartow, 8 p.m. Thursday