Bench to baller: Senior Johan Swildens thrives on the court

Erica Block

Throwing on number 24 and lacing up his shoes, senior Johan Swildens prepares to step on the basketball court to help lead the boys’ varsity basketball team to another victory. The buzzer blares and he takes off as a stampede of players storm the court. Swildens glances to his teammates, preparing to commit to a powerful shot, as he rigorously practiced to do. 

Swildens was first introduced to basketball in middle school when he began playing pickup games with his friends during recess. After discovering his joy for the sport, Swildens committed to an organized basketball team in the seventh grade through the Christian Youth Organization (CYO), and joined the Del Mar Middle School team shortly after. With a large group of supportive players and knowledgeable, disciplined coaches, Swilden’s experience at the high school level cultivated his passion for basketball as well as provided him with the opportunity to grow into the versatile player he is today. 

Swildens began on the freshman team, playing junior varsity for one year before making varsity his junior year. Now as a senior, he is a key starter and dedicated member of the varsity team. Varsity coach Jay Demaestri recognizes the pure determination and power Swildens holds on the court. 

“[The team] loves his ability to get to the rim on offense, his cuts and finishing at the rim. He also has the ability to step out and hit a three. It’s nice because the players all bring something different and his accuracy, extra possessions [and] being a very good offensive rebounder, are [very valued],” Demaestri said. 

Swildens attributes a great deal of his growth to his consistency in practicing, as well as his perfectionist qualities that motivate him to become the best player possible. 

“[Playing] on varsity has taught me about the importance of being consistent. You want to be playing consistently and getting better so you can improve and outplay your competition,” Swildens said. “I guess I have developed into a perfectionist. Every time I play, I’ll analyze what I’ve done, and how I can do things differently the next time around, always in search of the perfect game.”

During the off-season this past summer, Swildens took that perfection to a new level by playing regularly in tournaments affiliated with Redwood basketball, and he was able to see an immediate transformation in his confidence and playing skills. 

Sporting number 24, Swildens helps his teammates defend the ball from their opponents. (Photo by Lauren Poulin)


Teammate and fellow senior Ainsworth Fish voices the major growth he has witnessed from Swildens over the past year as well as his joy watching Swildens develop more trust in himself on the court. 

“When I came back [from ankle surgery in 2022] to come and watch a game for our summer league, I watched [Swildens] for the first time that season and he had made such a big jump from junior year. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, wow, we’re [going to have] another incredible player who can really bring it,’” Fish said. 

So far, Swildens has accomplished a great deal this season. He makes about 54.8 percent of the shots he takes, and when he is on the court, the team scores about 7.6 more points than their average. This is a notable improvement in his statistics from previous seasons. 

“[Before this year] I didn’t really get any playing time because I was a junior. This year I have had a whole new perspective on the game because I already [experienced] varsity for a year. The difference between playing varsity [your first year] to your second year is pretty drastic. You get a lot more comfortable and things open up for you. Every game this year I feel like I’m gearing up for the climax of how I’m playing,” Swildens said. 

With years of stringent practice, team bonding and self-growth, Swildens continuously demonstrates his ability to help the team when they are in a challenging position, and hopes to do that for future matches. Although Swildens will focus on academics in his career, he still plans to continue playing basketball on a club team in college. 

“[Swildens] is a very committed player. He’ll do anything to win. It doesn’t matter if he scores 20 points or two points, as long as he contributes however he can to help us get the win. [Helping the team] is enough for him; it’s pretty noticeable out there. He’s a very selfless player,” Fish said.