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Chloe Johnson (left) as a 7th-grade varsity starter for Duluth Marshall in 2022-23. Howie /
Howie Hanson

Dyami Starks, founder of Starks Academy, a renowned basketball program, and Player Development Coach for All Iowa Attack, talks about Chloe Johnson, the basketball prodigy from Duluth Marshall – "Chloe (Johnson) has the ingredients to go down as one of Minnesota’s All-Time Greats (like Gianna Kneepkens before her). But that’s never mentioned by me or her family. Anybody who’s heard her story knows basketball is her safe haven from her anxiety, so anytime 'team USA,' ' top-10,' or 'transformational talent' is brought up, it misses the point!

Sure, Chloe can achieve all those things, but will she? Who knows, who cares? The real question is, can Chloe stay true to her ‘why'? 

Basketball-wise, the ingredients are all there: skill, IQ, size, strength, height and athleticism. Whoever watches Chloe play can spot her advanced ball skills fairly quickly. She can score 40+ on any night with 25 ft 3’s, flashy finishes and everything in between.

Dyami Starks

Her vision is uncanny, as she led the state in assists as an 8th grader. And she rebounds well and nearly averages a triple-double. However, what really makes Chloe advanced is her physical attributes. At 5’11", she’s the same height or taller than most BCS college guards. And that’s not her best physical trait: Chloe has a very strong, athletic frame. As an 8th grader, she’s already bigger and stronger than 75% of 17U EYBL guards. It’s hard to emphasize how unique her build is. Think of a 6’4", 210 lbs 8th-grade boy who can play the PG.

And that still isn’t the separator. Chloe’s #1 trait is her resiliency. She’s just tough. Battles with mental health, 2-3 workouts per day, playing 17U since 6th grade, handling expectations, getting berated by me daily (lol) and constantly being compared to Caitlin/Paige (just like Ant said, stop doing that!). Through it all, I’ve never heard her complain. 

She’ll get overwhelmed, admit it’s not always fun or think about changing things up, but that’s not what toughness is. We all have distraught feelings and vulnerable moments … toughness is finding a way through it. And she constantly finds ways.

We’re yet to see Chloe’s final form. She might grow another inch. She’ll become more efficient. Her upper body will become more mechanically sound (faster dribbles/passes/shots). Her functional strength will improve (the classic 'old man' strength we get as we age). And she’ll become more mature (when great players say the 'game slows down'.) So it’s tough putting a ceiling on her.

But I really don’t care to. I care if she continues to use basketball to better her life. I can imagine how hard it is to believe that. But the truth is, I really don’t care if she plays for Dawn Staley, Dawn Plitzuweit, or Mandy Pearson. That’s never been a part of her ‘why’, so why should that be a measurement of her success?

I’ve seen that kid go through hell to feel normal. Playing BCS, making Team USA or getting ranked doesn’t validate that! If she sticks to her ‘why,’ the rest will care for itself. That’s her secret ingredient. And it’s why I also believe she’ll be one of the best players we’ve ever seen in Minnesota."  

​Dyami Starks, an alumnus of Duluth East, dominated the basketball court as a Division 1 player at Bryant University, Rhode Island, and as a professional player in Australia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Latvia. He is the Founder of Starks Academy, a renowned basketball program, and serves as a Player Development Coach for All Iowa Attack. He is also an Assistant Coach for the Women's Basketball program at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Visit his website at: