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Basketball

Versatile All-Area MVP Johnson ‘off the charts’ for Riverside Brookfield

Riverside Brookfield's Sam Johnson puts up a shot on March 6 in the Bulldogs' regional championship game win against Oak Park-River Forest. Johnson, RB's lone senior starter, averaged a double-double this season and helped the Bulldogs win their first sectional title.
Riverside Brookfield's Sam Johnson puts up a shot on March 6 in the Bulldogs' regional championship game win against Oak Park-River Forest. Johnson, RB's lone senior starter, averaged a double-double this season and helped the Bulldogs win their first sectional title.

CICERO – Friday night’s sectional final was just another ho-hum double-double for Sam Johnson.

Not that a double-double is an easy feat, but considering the Riverside Brookfield senior has had 20 this season, putting up 12 points and 11 rebounds isn’t a memorable performance. That’s the high standard Johnson has set this season.

The All-Area MVP has led the Bulldogs in a number of ways this season, and helped the team win a sectional title for the first time in program history.

Johnson is a 6-foot-7 forward with a nose for the ball on rebounds and a versatile offensive game that includes both a strong inside game and a consistent 3-point shot that keeps defenders honest. In the sectional final against Morton, Johnson noted how the Mustangs were denying his 3-point shot so he went to work inside.

“A game like this where they’re running me off the line and not letting me shoot 3s, we definitely had a height advantage,” Johnson said. “I could go inside.”

His efficiency offensively was a key to making him a standout player this season. He shot 41 percent from 3-point range [46-for-111] and 55 percent overall from the field while making 72 percent of his free throws [111-for-154].

RB featured a young squad this year, but didn’t show it in terms of wins and losses. Johnson started along with two juniors and two sophomores. He shied away from claiming a leadership role, saying his teammates figured out what their role was early on in the season, but the team definitely looked up to him.

“He’s such a complete player,” sophomore guard Henry Trelenberg said. “He’s the most underrated player in the state.”

“Every guy in this program loves him,” coach Tom McCloskey said. “He’s a kid that came in and his improvement over four years has just been amazing. He had a really good junior year, but the senior year he had is off the charts. His stats are ridiculous. He’s played poised, he’s made big shots, his rebounding has been outstanding. He’s just been a complete player.”

Johnson averaged 17.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game this season, and even added 3.6 assists showing a willingness to pass to an open teammate when defenses would collapse on him.

He even denied being the go-to guy for the Bulldogs this season.

“If I have an opportunity to score then sure, but we have so many weapons I don’t always have to be the go-to guy,” Johnson said. “By now all the young guys know what they’re doing. They play amazing.”

Despite his standout season, Johnson still hasn’t had the breakthrough on the recruiting scene. He has had Division II and Division III schools interested in him since before the year. Even his breakout senior season hasn’t changed much on that front.

“It’s been pretty much the same all year, just a lot of Division III and Division II schools,” Johnson said. “If [a Division I offer] happens, it happens, but as of now I don’t think so.”

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