The spacious confines of Hartman Arena in Park City can sometimes be hard to adapt to.
“You’re going into an environment where perimeter shooting is a little tough,” Barton head coach Craig Fletchall said. “Because of the environment, the play of Raheem inside is going to be even more important than our perimeter shooters.”
The Cougars’ Raheem Johnson, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound post player, has blossomed into one of the top centers in the region. He scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a first-round region win over Allen, and came through with his fourth double-double of the season — 16 points and 13 boards, along with three shot blocks — in a dominating performance against Cowley.
A native of Romulus, Mich., Johnson is a diamond in the rough. A raw talent that still is unrefined.
“I think a lot of it is confidence level,” Fletchall said of Johnson, who is averaging 9.1 points, along with 7.7 rebounds, second on the team. “You’re talking about a guy that has only played organized basketball for about three years.
“I think the main thing is that he’s a true 5, a true post that you don’t find very much anymore. Most of the teams in the conference are going to smaller posts.”
There have been comparisons drawn between Johnson and former Barton power forward Dwayne Brunson, an all-region and all-conference player who used up his eligibility last season and is now the leading scorer for Fort Hays State University.
Besides wearing the same uniform number that Brunson wore (31), Johnson, like Brunson, is an explosive jumper, dunker and rebounder.
Brunson, who had 16 double-doubles during his sophomore season, could step out on the perimeter and hit the mid-range jump shot, along with stepping out beyond the arc.
“Dwayne was a good example of someone who could stop and pop the perimeter shot, and Raheem hasn’t taken a 3-pointer all year,” Fletchall said. “Dwayne was putting up numbers out of the gate, and it’s just rewarding to see Raheem’s rise in just two or three months.
“You’ve got to be excited about his future. If he stays focused and takes care of his academics, he’s going to have more coaches than even Algie has had in here recruiting him.”