Classmates, coach, mourn death of standout Brandon basketball player

BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) — Standing at 6’10” tall, it was hard to miss 17-year-old Jayquon Johnson walking around Brandon High School.

“He was nice, he made people happy,” said George Pless, one of Johnson’s classmates.

That towering presence is now gone and many students that News Channel 8 spoke with said they learned of Johnson’s passing on social media.

“I saw some posts on Facebook, he rode the same bus as me. I kind of got suspicious, so I looked it up and found some posts on the internet saying that some kid had gotten shot, he was in the 10th grade, on the basketball team and it happened to be Jayquon,” said Jacob McGough, a student at Brandon High School.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies say Johnson was shot on Cabbage Palm Drive in Valrico on New Year’s Day. Deputies say they questioned the suspected shooter, who remained at the scene when deputies arrived.

On Tuesday morning, only a small memorial and nervous local residents remained outside the scene where neighbors say the shooting took place.

“It’s very scary…all the neighbors here have little kids…they play in the street here because it’s a courtyard, so nobody goes down this street, so it’s very scary,” said Jerry Janiszewski, who lives across the street from scene of the shooting.

Residents tell News Channel 8 the residence where deputies investigated on Sunday on Cabbage Palm Drive had been the center of a lot of activity in recent months with cars consistently coming in and out, but since New Year’s Day, things have been quiet.

“So far, we don’t know nothing because they took off, so we don’t know where they are at or what’s going on,” Janiszewski said of the people who lived in the Cabbage Palm Drive residence.

As detectives continue their investigation, tributes to Johnson are pouring in on social media, with many users sharing videos of the athlete playing basketball.

One user tweeted: “All I can do is sleep to keep from crying now that you’re gone.”

Another user wrote: “Guns are nothing to be playing with. A good one lost yesterday, gone so early.”

According to Hillsborough County Public Schools, Johnson went to Brandon High School from 2015 to 2017 and was a sophomore when he died. He went to Rodgers Middle School from 6th through 8th grade.

Grief counselors were made available for students at Brandon High School on Tuesday. Staff at the school was grieving, too.

Brandon High School Head Basketball Coach Jamie Turner said Johnson was a great student, a great athlete, a great brother and a great son.

“He was like a big Teddy Bear. When Jayquon Johnson walked in the room, people lit up. One thing I knew about Jayquon, people wanted to know him, people wanted to be around him, people wanted to stand next to him,” said Turner. “We loved Jayquon dearly. We loved that kid.”

Turner said Johnson was recruited to play basketball at U.S.F., the University of Virginia, Louisville and the University of Texas.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting appears to have occurred following a confrontation that resulted from a drug transaction. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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