Chicago kids Brandon Johnson and Shaheed Medlock use extra year to come home


Maddy Maes

Brandon Johnson taking a free throw in Thursday’s exhibition game.

After their college careers were affected by Covid, graduate students Brandon Johnson and Shaheed Medlock of the DePaul men’s basketball team were given the chance to play an extra year.

Like many, student-athletes were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020. They all had to adjust to an online education, while many also had their seasons cut short as well.

Suddenly, the reason why many of them were at the school was taken away from them, and they were forced to learn what living without their sport was like.

And when sports did make a return, the athletes still had to battle Covid, shortened seasons and new adjustments.

Because of that lost time and new adjustments, the NCAA offered an extra year of eligibility to Division 1 athletes from spring 2020, fall 2020 and winter 2020-21. Division 2 athletes were also granted the same eligibility, while Division 3 fall 2021 athletes were also given a choice for an extra year.

Every athlete is granted five years to play four seasons of their sports. Now, any athlete who played in one of those seasons gets the choice to play an additional year after their four seasons are complete.

“I thought it was the right thing to do, because you realize that the year before got cut short with Covid, when there was no NCAA tournament, no, really, conference tournaments, and then, again, everything stopped,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “There was no summer when the guys could work out, be with the team, and even in the fall, everything kind of was in flux, where you still couldn’t work out.”

Now that it has been a full year since the NCAA made the announcement in Oct. of 2020, athletes have been able to take advantage of the extra year. It is the reason why Johnson and Medlock are at DePaul.

A guard on the team, Medlock graduated from Georgia Tech University last May, and joined the Blue Demons as a walk-on in August. He played in 11 games at Georgia Tech. And what drew him to DePaul as an option for his extra year was that it was home.

“I’m originally from Chicago and I just wanted to be back in the city, to train with my basketball trainer and be around my support team,” Medlock said. “In my previous school, it was out-of-state, so I didn’t have the same support that I have here now, so I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and use all my resources.”

A native of Chicago as well, the lure of returning to his home city is also what drew Johnson to DePaul.

“Just coming back home, being around my family and friends, actually having them at the games, that was really the main reason,” Johnson said.

The forward played three seasons at Western Michigan University and had to miss the 2018-19 season due to injury, before transferring to the University of Minnesota in 2020, where he played his senior year and graduated in May of 2021.

He averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 120 games in his career, and averaged 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his time at Minnesota.

Now, Johnson and Medlock have come home, where they are able to play in front of fans again and have their families come to the games after playing at out-of-state schools their collegiate entire career.

“Last year wasn’t the best situation,” Johnson said. “Especially with not having fans in the building, everything like that, so teams had to build their own energy, but just coming back and being able to actually have a real season, it’s a blessing.”

As some of the oldest basketball players to play in the NCAA due to the extra year of eligibility, Johnson and Medlock are ready to make a difference at DePaul.

“They’re older, more experienced guys,” Stubblefield said. “So, just from a leadership standpoint, just a work ethic standpoint, I think these guys will be very impactful for our program, for our team, and they’re the type of guys that you want to build your culture around.”

The Blue Demons kick off the season against Coppin State University on Nov. 10 at Wintrust Arena before Central Michigan University comes to town three days later.