The paths Brandon Ewing and Weston Johnson took to Laramie couldn’t have been more different.
Ewing came from the metropolis of Chicago. Basketball was his ticket to college.
Johnson hailed from rural Wray on the eastern plains of Colorado. He earned his scholarship on the gridiron.
They met as freshmen in 2005 at the University of Wyoming and became friends while staying in the dorms and having meals at the Washakie Dining Center.
Ewing and Johnson had well-documented success in athletics and academics all four years at Wyoming and in the Mountain West. Ewing ended his career as one of the most prolific point guards in school history. Johnson was a hard-hitting linebacker and captain of the winning 2009 New Mexico Bowl team.
“Coming to UW was the best decision for me. I had a great career here at Wyoming where I turned into the man I am today,” Ewing, who stayed at Wyoming even after former coach Steve McClain resigned, said. “I played for the community and the name on the front of the jersey.”
They graduated in 2009, and again, went on treks over separate trails the next several years.
Johnson spent a year with the Atlanta Falcons, came back to UW as a defensive graduate assistant coach and later coached football at Sheridan High School.
Ewing played professionally overseas in Israel and Cyprus Greece and spent a year with the National Basketball Association-D League Iowa Energy.
A Laramie Weekend
Last December Ewing tossed around an idea for a who’s who gathering in Laramie of former UW athletes for the purpose of giving back to the community that left such a lasting impression on him.
The special weekend — Brandon Ewing’s First Laramie Weekend — is Friday and Saturday.
“I never really came back to Wyoming since I graduated. I have always kept in contact with my friends and teammates and I follow the current team now.
“I just wanted to get everyone together, hang out and have a good time, but not have the typical alumni basketball game.
“I wanted to build a bridge between all the sports, students and fans. I was never the type that thought that since I was a basketball player I was above everybody.”
Some of those on the long list Ewing invited and are planning to attend are: Fennis Dembo; Theo Ratliff; Ryan Yarbrough; Derrick Martin; Jay Straight; Justin Williams; Donta Richardson; Brad Jones; Tashaun Gipson; Eric Platt; Afam Muojeke; and Ryan Dermody.
Ewing wanted everyone to have access to meet his guests, including current athletes in all sports, students, fans and anyone else in the community. A variety of social gatherings are scheduled throughout the two days at several businesses.
Said Ewing, “Anybody can stop by, have something to eat, come to the bowling alley for a game or two, or come to where we are to have fun.
“I’ve always known this to be a family-oriented community and we all hang out as one whether you are an athlete, student or a little kid. That was my approach for this weekend.”
A Better Plan
The trails for Ewing and Johnson have crossed again. In late January word began to spread that Johnson was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. He is currently undergoing treatments for his fight with cancer.
“When I found out about Weston on Twitter, it took me a long time to respond because I was reflecting back on the days we would hang out in the dorms, eat at Washakie — and we are the same age,” Ewing said. “Then I thought why can’t we all contribute for one weekend when we can all come together and team up to help out Weston?”
So the special weekend of activities became devoted to helping his friend. Many of the Laramie businesses on the schedule of events will offer specials with a portion of the proceeds going toward Johnson to help defray his medical costs.
“The people here embraced me during my four years and for years after that,” Ewing said. “I also know the impact Weston had on the university. It really hit home with what happened to him, not only in Laramie, but across the state of Wyoming.
“I know everyone feels bad for Weston, but I also know he is in good spirits. If we just all have fun for Weston, I’m sure that will cheer him up even more.”
NBA or Nothing
Ewing plans to stay in Laramie until about July. He is using the UW facilities while rehabbing an injured groin and training for his dream of making it into the NBA.
“I wanted to be surrounded by people who love and support me,” he said. “No matter what I do, the people here will always back me up. Even if I decide to stop playing basketball the people here love me for who I am and look out for me.
“My goal for this summer is that it’s the NBA or nothing at this point for me — and I will make it.
“I’m not satisfied by just making good money playing overseas because I played this game for the NBA. Obviously, I would like to play for 10-15 years, but if I could just play in one NBA game, my life would be complete.
“Although I would like to make any NBA roster, the Denver Nuggets would be the perfect situation so the people here at UW can come watch me play.
“They watched me grow from an 18-year-old boy to a 22-year-old man. Now that I’m 26, I’m ready for the NBA for sure.”
EWING’S WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Dinner: 5-7:30 p.m. at Altitude Chophouse & Brewery
“Pre-Game”: 8:30-11 p.m. at Lovejoy’s Bar & Grill
Party: 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. at Buckhorn Bar and 3rd Street Bar
Bowling Party & Autograph Session: 3-5:30 p.m. at Laramie Lanes
Dinner: 6:30-9 p.m. at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
“Pre-Game”: 9-11:30 p.m. at Mingles Lounge & Bar
Party: 11:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. at Buckhorn Bar and 3rd Street Bar
Note: 3rd Street Bar will offer a shot special ($4) and Lovejoy’s Bar & Grill will offer a drink special ($3) called “The Weston” from 5 p.m. on Friday to closing on Saturday. All proceeds will go toward former Cowboys football player Weston Johnson’s fight with cancer. Bowling games at Laramie Lanes will be $2.75 with free shoes and $1.75 will go toward the Johnson fund.