A standout in his freshman season at Morehead State, Broome returned home to host his first basketball camp.
Even in northern Kentucky, Johni Broome’s heart lies in Plant City.
With his roots in Plant City dating back several generations, Broome grew up playing basketball with Plant City’s rec. league, baseball at Plant City Little League and football with the Plant City Dolphins, a youth football organization that his father still coaches with today. When he reached high school, he spent two years playing basketball and football at Plant City before turning his focus strictly to basketball and transferring to Tampa Catholic.
In time, his offer sheet grew right alongside his 6-foot-10 stature and Broome ultimately committed to Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.
“(Head coach Preston Spradlin) and I have a very good relationship,” Broome said about his commitment to MSU. “He’s been honest with me from the jump and that’s what caught my attention. He told me what it was and what I was coming there for. He told me that he was going to make me the best basketball player that I can be and that’s what he’s done so far. But I feel like it was like a family there. He called my mom, my dad, asked about my sister and my niece, my brother, asked how I was doing all the time. We had talks before I committed, not even about basketball, just about what’s going on in Plant City, where I’m from, and just getting a better connection that way. That’s what led me there.”
Then a preseason injury on the Eagle’s roster guaranteed that 18 year old kid from Plant City a significant role last year and he ran with it. From the pain of losing a teammate grew opportunity.
“I probably wasn’t going to start, but I knew that I was still going to have a good role on the team, whether that was starting or coming off of the bench and giving good energy and giving good minutes,” Broome said. “But when Tyzhaun Claude got hurt, he basically said that I’m not a freshman anymore and that I had to step up. So I just felt as though I had to do what was best for the team, and that was to play unlike a freshman.”
In that freshman season Broome averaged 13.8 points and nine rebounds per game while also racking up accolades. By season’s end — playing in the Ohio Valley Conference — he had garnered OVC Freshman of the Year, first-team All-OVC, OVC All-Newcomer Team, OVC All-Tournament Team, OVC Tournament MVP and nine different OVC Freshman of the Week awards en route to MSU’s first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. As for MSU, Broome set freshman records for total rebounds (271) and blocks (56).
In early July, as Broome continued to workout with his team in Kentucky, the NCAA passed new rules that allowed players to benefit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). With the new rules in place, Broome began working with his parents to put together his first basketball camp at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center as a way to give back to the kids growing up in Plant City just as he did.
“When the (new NIL rules) hit, I like to give back to the kids where I’m from, so I immediately thought about some ways that I can impact these kid’s lives and play basketball with them, the game I love,” Broome said. “The first thing that came to my mind was a camp. After that I called my mom and dad, talked to them about it and they said it was a good idea so we just went from there.”
Over the next three weeks Broome and his family scrambled to put the camp together. After workouts and practice he would reach out to former teammates and friends in search of help at the camp, then he would FaceTime his family as they worked to get word out about the camp while t-shirts and hats were printed for the campers and coaches/counselors.
And despite Broome’s flight home landing just the night before, his camp made its debut last Friday and Saturday with around 30 kids from elementary through high school in attendance. This year’s camp is just the first installment with more expected in the future, according to Broome, with numbers hopefully growing with each camp held.
Broome and his fellow coaches, many that were friends growing up who have now gone on to play collegiate basketball themselves, see how the camp can serve as more than just a way for these young kids to sharpen their skills. It can also provide them with local role models who show that a future in college and in basketball is attainable through hard work.
“It’s very important,” counselor Joe Stubbs said about the kids having role models from Plant City. “Most kids, and I was one of those kids, I didn’t think college was possible. I didn’t think it was possible. Then I found basketball, kind of had a role model, my first AAU coach was my role model and I made it.”