Sampson Delivers Message to Johnson

JaJuan Johnson

Franklin Central big man JaJuan Johnson is in Bloomington for the Adidas May Classic, and Friday he talked about a conversation he had with new IU coach Kelvin Sampson, which sheds some light on the level of interest IU has in the 6-10 rising senior...

Bloomington, Ind. – When Franklin Central big man JaJuan Johnson ran into new IU Coach Kelvin Sampson Thursday night before the start of the Adidas May Classic, the Hoosiers' coach had a message for him.

"He just wanted me to give them a shot," the 6-10, 205-pounder said Friday night. "Since they got the job, (Indiana's interest) has picked up."

The Hoosier staff hasn't officially extended a scholarship offer to the Junior All-Star, but it appears one could come later this summer. Thus far, Johnson said he already has scholarship offers from Purdue, Xavier, Cincinnati, Marquette and Ball State, among others.

But Indiana has certainly emerged as a possibility as well.

"They're really interested in me," Johnson said about IU. "Coach Sampson told me they were."

One of the things that likely stands out to Sampson about Johnson is the potential the big man possesses. He's long and athletic, someone who can run the floor and finish on the break while also being an imposing presence on the defensive end as well.

He showed some of those skills Friday, helping the Spiece Central squad to a 68-51 first-round win over the Indiana Kings with an eight-point, six-rebound, two-block effort. His evening was highlighted by a two-handed fast break dunk after a teammate bounced the ball off the backboard to the trailing Johnson.

There's room for growth in Johnson's offensive game, and also in his frame. He's a slender 205 pounds, but he said he's been hitting the weight room hard in the off-season in an effort to bulk up before the start of his senior season.

"I'm in there three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for about two hours," Johnson said.

Johnson's summer months will not only feature his play on the Spiece squad, but also plenty of action on the Indiana Junior All-Stars. He was one of six juniors selected as "core" members of the squad, meaning he'll travel around the state to compete in three games against the state's senior all-star unit.

It's a big honor for Johnson, but also a big task since that means he'll be matched up with National Player of the Year and Indiana Mr. Basketball each time.

"I'll be playing against the big guy three more times – that makes five times in one year," said Johnson, whose Franklin Central team lost two regular season contests to Oden's Lawrence North squad. "It's a pretty tough matchup because he's got a lot of weight on me, but I'll try my best."

While it's a challenge to go up against the Ohio State-bound Oden, it's also an opportunity to see different ways Johnson can improve his game. Like Johnson, Oden built his reputation with his prowess on the defensive end of the court, and the offense came along later in his high school career.

"I like how he's strong, how he takes it up strong and finishes," said Johnson. "I'm trying to do that also."

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