After Two Visits, Johnson Feels Like Family
2016 Phoenix (Ariz.) Shadow Mountain hoopster Carlos Johnson joined the Oakland Soldiers two months ago, and in that time, he says, he's learned a lot from playing with 2015 five-star Ivan Rabb, who recently visited Berkeley over the weekend. One of the many things he's learned from Rabb -- and Hayward (Calif.) Moreau Catholic star Oscar Frayer (who he calls "my brother") -- is that the new California staff means business. Over the past few days, he's seen that first-hand.
"They made me feel like I was family," Johnson said of his two-day visit to Berkeley. "I wasn't just another player to them. I was part of the family."
That confirmed what Frayer told Johnson: "That's it's a great program, and good people to be around."
Johnson has visited Cal twice over the past five days, once on Thursday and once on Monday, coming away with a scholarship offer on his second visit.
"They were recruiting me hard, and the night that coaches could start calling, they called me a couple times -- the day that coaches could start calling guys, right at 12 o'clock, they gave me a call -- and I just felt the love from coach Cuonzo [Martin] and his staff, Yanni [Hufnagel], coach [Tracy] Webster and all those guys," Johnson said. "I just felt good over the phone, so I said, ‘Let's make it happen. Let's get out there and see those guys.'"
Johnson called his two days at Cal "crazy," and over those two days – Thursday and Monday – he and his mother got a comprehensive look inside the program that Martin is trying to build.
"The gym (Haas Pavilion) was amazing," Johnson said. "I'm not getting recruited by many schools, but that gym was just amazing. It was huge. There was great everything. I went through the team's offices and stuff to see how it is, and they've got one thing on their mind, and that's winning. That's the mantra that I have.
"I told coach Cuonzo that I've only been on two campuses, and Cal is by far, I like it the most. I really like it."
Monday was a quick stop-over for Johnson, who watched the staff's youth camp, and had a "really great conversation" in Martin's office.
"He said, ‘I want to offer you a full-ride scholarship to come play here at Cal,' and I was like, ‘Thank you. I feel truly blessed for you to give me this opportunity.'
"It was just a blessing. I only have one other offer (from Grand Canyon University), so it was just a blessing for him to give me the opportunity to play at this school. It's tremendous for me, because there are not too many people in my family who have gotten a full-ride scholarship to play college ball wherever they want. My uncle played a little bit at Bradley."
What was mom's reaction when the Bears offered Johnson the chance to go to school for free?
"My mom, she was kind of shocked," Johnson said. "She thought they were going to wait until after Peach Jam. She was really shocked, and she was in shock more than me, because she's never witnessed something like this before. It was a shock for her."
Johnson is originally from Illinois, and moved out to Phoenix with his mother before seventh grade. He stands at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, looking more like a linebacker than a basketball prospect, and inhabits a strange middle ground between several positions. He's listed as a small forward, but the Bears have other ideas.
"Position-wise, I'm going to play the two-guard, maybe the one," Johnson said. "I see myself playing the two. That's what the coaches see – a big, strong two. Maybe the one sometimes."
Johnson has superior handles, and good ball skills, so him playing on the ball isn't a far-fetched concept. Last season, Johnson averaged 20.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, playing forward and center.
"I can stretch the floor and get out running," Johnson said. "The coaches like that I've got confidence and toughness."
That confidence and toughness are what led Johnson to join up with the Soldiers, in the first place.
"It was the opportunity to get the exposure I want and get to the places I want to go," Johnson said. "You've got to work hard, every play. No plays off. Those guys like Ivan and [Stephen] Zimmerman and Chimezie [Metu], all of the guys that are on my team, we all have one thing in common, and that's winning. We all work hard, and we mesh together."
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