Heredity more than holds its own against environment when it comes to explaining why Dakari Johnson developed into a high-Division I player. His mother and grandfather played for LIU Brooklyn (then known as Long Island University). An uncle played for Stony Brook, a cousin for Coppin State.
With all that basketball in the gene pool, it might seem like predestination that Johnson would play for a program like Kentucky.
Johnson, ever playful, dismissed his mother's basketball abilities.
"Not good," he said. "Not good at all.
"She was decent. From what I heard, she was all right. I don't think she was that good."
Makini (Campbell) Black, who is 6-foot-5, played basketball at LIU Brooklyn from 1993-95. According to the school's sports information office, she played in 28 games as a sophomore, started nine and averaged 11.7 minutes, 2.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. The team had a 10-19 record.
The following season she played in 21 games, started 14 and averaged 14.0 minutes, 1.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. The Blackbirds had a 5-23 record.
Her father (and Johnson's grandfather), Leslie Campbell, was a 6-8 player for the Blackbirds from 1960-62. LIU had a combined record of 25-19 in those two seasons. In his second season, Campbell played in 14 games and averaged 3.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.
The uncle, Kojo Black, averaged 7.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for Stony Brook in 1993-94.
Mother tried to help son develop as a player.
"When I was younger, I would always work out with her," Johnson said. "Those didn't go too well."
Apparently, the friction that typically plays a part in parent-child relationships extended to these mother-son workouts.
"We'd go back and forth," Johnson said. "I would tell her, she thinks she knows everything."
There would be one-on-one games.
"All the time," Johnson said.
When asked who prevailed, Johnson said, "It went (well) for her till I got up to about 14 or 15."
Because of his fun-loving nature and quick smile, it can be difficult to know how seriously to take Johnson. After one of the exhibition games in the Bahamas, a reporter asked Johnson why he seemed content to bank in a layup rather than dunk, the latter more difficult to defend and the preference of most coaches.
"Maybe I'll just dunk it next time," Johnson said with a deadpan delivery.
Laughter filled the interview room.
Johnson acknowledges his ability to lighten the mood.
"Here and there, I say a couple of jokes," he said. "We're always laughing. ... We'll just be walking around, and if I see something, I'll say something funny."
Kentucky, where basketball is always taken seriously, might not seem like the place for humor.
"I'm just who I am," Johnson said. "Even on the court, I like to have a good time. I'll get fired up and do something."
Johnson has a role model for, if you will, fun and games when it comes to basketball.
"Yeah," he said. "Shaquille O'Neal.
"Just a lot of players. Their affection for the game and how they'll express it. They'll do something or a certain move."
UK should be on the lookout this season. Johnson seemed to warm to the idea of a playful, but not too playful, bit of self-expression.
"I'll have to think about that one," he said. "I'll probably do something this year that will be a little crazy."