College

Wednesday, Jan 08 2014 10:42 PM

Senior transfer Johnson could see more minutes for CSUB

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    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    CSUB's Strefon Carter dribbles toward the basket during their game against Idaho State at the Icardo Center.

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    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    CSUB forward Stefon Carter and Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris both look for a rebound during action in the Fresno State Classic November 30th at the Save Mart Center in Fresno.

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    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    CSUB's Strefon Carter and Idaho State's Scotty Tyler fight for position during action this season at the Icardo Center.

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    By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian

    CSUB forward Stefon Carter works to get around Idaho State guard Andre Hatchett during action this season at the Icardo Center.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

Stefon Johnson has scored in double figures three times this season and averages 6.3 points per game.

Look for those numbers to go up.

Related Info

Grand Canyon at CSUB

7 p.m. at Rabobank Arena

Records: Grand Canyon 6-9, 1-1 WAC; CSUB 7-8, 0-1 WAC.

All-time series: CSUB leads 20-10

Last meeting: CSUB won 76-72 on Jan. 24, 2006

Radio: KERN 1180 AM

Notes: Grand Canyon and CSUB were Div. II schools the first 30 meetings. Tonight is the first time they'll met as Div. I members. ... Grand Canyon's first-year coach is former Phoenix Suns guard Dan Majerle. ... The Antelopes went 1-1 in their WAC opening week, beating Texas-Pan American 91-85 and losing to WAC favorite New Mexico State 84-62. CSUB lost to Utah Valley 82-74 in its lone WAC game last week. ... The CSUB women (7-6, 1-0) play at Grand Canyon (11-4, 0-2) tonight.

Johnson is being asked to provide more scoring punch for the Roadrunners, who resume their inaugural season on in the Western Athletic Conference at 7 p.m. tonight against Grand Canyon.

CSUB (7-8 overall, 0-1 WAC) is coming off an 82-75 loss Saturday against Utah Valley.

"I told him after the Christmas break that one of the things I felt we needed (from him) was more scoring," said Roadrunners coach Rod Barnes.

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward from Cincinnati, tied his season high with 15 points against Utah Valley.

He had 15 points vs. Fresno State on Nov. 30. Johnson's other double-digit game was 11 vs. Sacramento State on Nov. 13.

Before the season, Johnson was among a host of Roadrunners who figured to provide scoring punch periodically. Barnes felt the team's depth was sufficient to avoid leaning on any specific player for consistent scoring.

That's changed as the Roadrunners head into their conference season over the next two-and-a-half months.

Only senior guard Issiah Grayson, who averages 14 points per game, has been a consistent scorer.

The absence of senior guard Zach Lamb, who has not fully recovered from a devastating dislocated right ankle last season that required surgery, has slowed the Roadrunners' offense.

Lamb, projected to be one of CSUB's top scoring threats, is suiting up and has played in most games this season, but has not been able to compile extensive minutes.

With Lamb limited, Barnes said he sees Johnson as the best bet to fill the void.

"We gotta call his number," Barnes said. "We're going to continue to keep going to him because we think he's a guy that can get us double figures each night."

And that means Johnson is doing a lot.

"They ask me to do everything," Johnson said. "Play defense, rebound, play offense -- wherever they need me.

"He told all of us our roles at the beginning of the season. I just had to figure out how to put myself in the right position to do what he wants me to do."

Johnson, who has started 14 of CSUB's 15 games this season, leads Bakersfield with a 4.7 rebound average and also has a team-best 15 blocks.

"He's been solid," Barnes said. "He's been one of those guys who comes to practice, works really hard and has been really sound in his practice and his play."

Johnson is in his only season as an active player at CSUB. He played three seasons at Gardner-Webb (N.C.) before transferring prior to last season. NCAA transfer rules required Johnson to sit out last season as a redshirt.

He started 28 of 32 games in his final season at Gardner-Webb in 2011-12 but it wasn't an enjoyable time, he said.

"It was time to go. It wasn't the right place for me," Johnson said.

A natural forward, Johnson found himself at center in his last season at Gardner-Webb. He's mainly a power forward for the Roadrunners.

Johnson admitted is was difficult sitting out last season.

"It was definitely hard," he said. "Watching them lose, feeling I could be the one helping them. But what could you do?"

Johnson said CSUB wasn't on his radar when he began looking for potential transfer targets. "I'd never heard of the school in my life," he said.

What ultimately landed Johnson in Bakersfield was the mid-September start to the 2012 fall quarter. Most colleges begin classes much earlier.

Morehead State (Ky.) was his original target, Johnson said. "But the head coach ended up going to Southern Miss, so I was going to go there."

But that school didn't have any scholarship money available, Johnson said.

By this time it was late August, 2012, Johnson said.

"I called all the schools I could think of," Johnson said. "They said, 'We'd love to have you, but we've started school. You'll have to wait (until the winter quarter)."

That would have meant only a half-season of play in Johnson's final year of eligibility.

Then he got a break. Johnson said he spoke with Cal State Fullerton forward Marquise Horne.

The two were high school teammates at Cincinnati's Princeton Academy.

"He told me a lot of schools out here start real late, so I ought to call some guys out here to see what I could find," he said.

Johnson eventually spoke with CSUB assistant coach Kevin Missouri.

"I just looked them up," Johnson said. "I saw they had a lot of seniors leaving so I called him. I sent them some film, they liked it, and I came out."

Johnson is on schedule to graduate in June as a sociology major. He plans on returning to Cincinnati.

"I want to keep playing," Johnson said, adding that his decision to remain at the Division I level was to make himself more marketable to potential teams overseas.

After his playing career ends, Johnson said he'd like to start a nonprofit organization for youngsters who are potential college athletes.

"I'd like to help them go through the process of getting a degree," he said.

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