Boys Prep of the Week: Paul Johnson, Barron Collier tennis

Johnson has earned praise from his coach, Eric Manning, as one of the team’s most reliable and clutch players.

“He’s kind of the team leader. Everyone kind of looks up to him,” said Manning. “He can handle the pressure real well in big matches. He comes up big whenever we need him. I can’t say that about everybody on the team or even myself from time to time.”

Manning said the other players look up to Johnson because he is projected to be Barron Colliers starting quarterback next season.

No. 1 singles player Alan Sweet and Johnson, the Cougars’ No. 2 singles player, remain the only top five players from last season’s team.

“I just try to lead the guys,” Johnson said. “Our captain last year, Brett Clark, left. It left a big hole for us; I’m just trying to fill it.”

Barron Collier, the winner of the past three state championships, swept Cypress Lakes in the 3A regional semifinals and Naples in the finals last week.

Johnson, currently 13-1 on the year, contributed with four victories.

He defeated Cypress Lakes’ Kyle Yates, 6-2, 6-0, and he took care of Naples’ Garrett Gould, 6-0, 7-5 in singles play.

He was just as efficient as part of Barron Collier’s No. 1 doubles team.

Doug Smalls and Johnson trashed the Cypress Lakes’ doubles team, 8-5, on Tuesday, and he teamed up with Sweet to finish off Naples, 8-4, on Thursday.

Johnson, and his hot hand, is trying to guide his team to another state championship this week in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

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