Reno sharpshooter trips to WSU

COUGAR BASKETBALL COACH TONY BENNETT and staff play host this weekend to prospect Armon Johnson, who rattled the nylon to the tune of 30-plus points a game last season at Reno's Hug High. While he can certainly score, there's more to Johnson's game than just filling it up from downtown. The trip to Washington State will be the prolific scorer's first official visit. It also may be his only one.

The Northern 4A Region's Co-Player of the Year this past season, Johnson (6-3, 185) averaged 30.4 points per game as a junior, racking up 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals for the Hawks, improving on a sophomore varsity season where he averaged 20 a game. But Bennett and crew probably didn't target the lad just for his scoring -- Johnson's a complete player, one with deft passes, glass cleaning ability plus basketball instincts beyond his years.

Longtime watchers of the prep basketball scene in Nevada told that Johnson has the potential to do a number of different things in the Cougars' system -- primarily because he has a feel for the game that is advanced for a prep player at this stage of his development.

Johnson said among the reasons he's so high on Washington State -- Bennett and the Cougar staff have shown the interest in him not just as a basketball player, but as a person.

Armon Johnson tore it up in the Sierra League as a junior, averaging 30.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals

"I really like the coaching staff, they're great people," said Johnson. "I can't wait to get up there on my visit! I can't wait to see what he's like in person and see what they're all like to be around because really, right now we've just been talking on the phone."

In addition to the Cougs, Johnson holds a number of scholarship offers, including ones from Nevada, USC and Oregon.

The UW has also been recruiting Johnson hard over the summer. He spent some time in Seattle over the past few months, visiting his sister in Federal Way and hitting the open gyms at the UW staff's invitation. Johnson said he bonded with some of the Husky players and coaches but also that the UW has not yet given him an indication of when or if they might offer. Over the past month or so, his phone has been ringing off the hook, with Florida State and UCLA among those calling to check in.

"It's probably a tie between between Oregon, Washington State and Nevada as to who is recruiting me the hardest lately," said Johnson. "Washington has been recruiting me real hard lately but they haven't offered."

While difficult to peg Johnson as underrated in light of the offers, school interest and publicity he's receiving, recently ranked him as one of the top ten shooting guards out West, that nevertheless appears to be the case.

Playing in Reno, Johnson doesn't get quite the exposure as those do in the nation's prep basketball hot spots. And he wasn't able to spend as much time in the summer leagues this offseason -- Johnson spent the summer focusing on academics and also spending time in Oakland to be with his mother who was ill. Her health has since improved and Johnson is now back at Hug.

The offseason circuit is a huge component of the basketball recruiting process and when Johnson did get a chance to play this year, he wasn't surrounded with as much talent as some other prospects. But when Johnson was given the chance to go up against some of the bigger names this summer, he shined brightly indeed according to observers. His visit to Pullman this weekend will go a long ways towards determining if that bright light will take on a crimson hue in '07.

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