skip navigation
Screen shot 2015 04 03 at 2.35.51 pm

Johnson has taken long road to become Friar's centerpiece

12/15/2016, 2:00am EST
By Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
--

Coming off a season where they won a Philadelphia Catholic League first-round playoff game, the expectations for the Friars have been raised -- but for a different reason.

John Hargraves patrolled the middle for the Friars, but now the center is manned by 6-foot-8, 190-pound junior forward Ajiri Johnson.

Following his team’s 73-64 victory over Penn Wood, Bonner-Prendergast head coach Jack Concannon discussed how proud he was of his team’s ability to win in “an environment like this,” and how his Friars been able to withstand two early road tests against the both the Patriots and Malvern Prep, a team they defeated in the season opener.

Concannon has coached his fair share of players but he confessed he’s “never had a kid that works any harder" than Johnson. What’s even more intriguing is the path Johnson just be manning the middle for the Friars.

Born in Warri, Nigeria, Johnson -- whose first name is actually Ajiroghene -- fell in love with the game of basketball growing up and always expressed a desire to play. After being discovered in what he called a “showcase,” Johnson moved to the United States at age 15 and enrolled at Florida Prep Academy, formerly known as Florida Air Academy in Melbourne, Fla.

Johnson began playing AAU basketball for WE R1, and assistant coach Duane Coverdale is one of the people credited with bringing him to the U.S.

Following his freshmen season, Johnson looked to enroll at Bonner-Prendergast but he had not received his visa in time to enroll for classes so he was forced to leave the school. Johnson eventually found himself playing his sophomore season at Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Conn. Putnam has produced Division I talent in the past, notably Dayton’s Scoochie Smith, who has helped the Flyers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances including the Elite Eight in 2013-14.

The year before Johnson enrolled, Putnam was 29-5 and finished among the top prep schools in the country. Johnson said the quick movement from several schools made things unstable but he was happy he was able to continually land on his feet so fast.

“I was at Bonner last year but my papers didn’t come through. I was told I had to leave school,” Johnson said. “Luckily, I was able to leave school quickly and went up to Connecticut. That’s what I did last year then I returned back to Bonner [this year].”

At Putnam, Johnson played with some of the top talent in the country in five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, one of the top prospects in the class of 2017 who holds offers from local programs such as Temple and Villanova as well as powerhouses like Kentucky, Duke and Kansas to name a few. He also played alongside another highly touted prospect in fellow class of 2018 guard Eric Ayala, who holds his own offers from Temple, Penn State, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, Arizona and Indiana among others.

Johnson said playing with those two vastly progressed his game in only a short time period.

“Coming to Bonner, I had it in my mindset to play at my best because [at Putnam] I played with some of the best [players] in the country in Hamidou and Eric,” Johnson said. “They bullied [and worked] me, which made me stronger. When I came to Bonner, I came down with a killer mentality and I proved my point.”

Johnson has certainly proved his point as he’s averaging 18.0 points per game and 13.0 rebounds though the first two contests. Additionally, he’s provided a stable presence in the paint filling in for John Hargraves, who graduated last year. Johnson posted three blocks against Penn Wood, one of which ricocheted off of the backboard and was corralled by teammate Tymir Cooper for a layup at the other end. While Concannon isn’t expecting Johnson consistently make blocks such as that one, he feels the rest of the team can breathe a little easier knowing his 6-8 stalwart will be waiting inside for the opposition.

“It’s nice to have presence in there. Guys have to at least think about that he’s in there,” Concannon said. “He’s just learning how to play the game. He hasn’t played much basketball. He played a little bit of AAU this summer but this is the first real organized basketball he’s played.”

“He’s getting better every week by just being around the game and playing. We think he has the potential to be great.”

Johnson is still raw but he’s continually improving his footwork as evidenced by a number of up-and-under and spin moves against a much smaller front line of Penn Wood. For a big man still learning the nuances of the game, he’s shown surprising touch from the free-throw line (11-17 against the Patriots). Johnson knows he still has a lot to work on but he’s come such a long way already, he’s not too worried about the road ahead of him when it comes to his development as a player.

Still, he’s looking at this early stretch as a good sign but knows the type of talent his team will be facing once league play begins.

“It’s only two games so come [late] December and January other big stars [in the PCL] are coming ahead so we have to be ready for that,” Johnson said.


D1 Coverage:

Recruiting News:

Small-College News:

Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)

--

Following his team’s 73-64 victory over Penn Wood, Bonner-Prendergast head coach Jack Concannon discussed how proud he was of his team’s ability to win in “an environment like this” and have been able to withstand two early road tests against the both the Patriots and Malvern Prep, a team they defeated in the season opener.

Coming off a season where they won a Philadelphia Catholic League first-round playoff game, the expectations for the Friars have been raised but for a different reason. John Hargraves patrolled the middle for the Friars but now the center is manned by 6-foot-8, 190-pound junior forward Ajiri Johnson. Concannon has coached his fair share of players but he confessed he’s “never had a kid that works any harder I’ll tell you that,” than Johnson. What’s even more intriguing is the path Johnson just be manning the middle for the Friars.

Born in Warri, Nigeria, Johnson, whose first name is actually Ajiroghene, fell in love with the game of basketball growing up and always expressed a desire to play. After being discovered in what he called a “showcase,” Johnson moved to the United States at age 15 and enrolled at Florida Prep Academy, formerly known as Florida Air Academy in Melbourne, Fla. Johnson began playing AAU basketball for WE R1, and assistant coach Duane Coverdale is one of the people credited with bringing him to the U.S.

Following his freshmen season, Johnson looked to enroll at Bonner-Prendergast but he had not received his visa in time to enroll for classes so he was forced to leave the school. Johnson eventually found himself playing his sophomore season at Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Conn. Putnam has produced Division 1 talent in the past, notably Dayton’s Scoochie Smith, who has helped the Flyers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances including the Elite Eight in 2013-14.

The year before Johnson enrolled, Putnam was 29-5 and finished among the top prep schools in the country. Johnson said the quick movement from several schools made things unstable but he was happy he was able to continually land on his feet so fast.

“I was at Bonner last year but my papers didn’t come through. I was told I had to leave school,” Johnson said. “Luckily, I was able to leave school quickly and went up to Connecticut. That’s what I did last year then I returned back to Bonner [this year.]”

At Putnam, Johnson played with some of the top talent in the country in five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, one of the top prospects in the class of 2017 who holds offers from local programs such as Temple and Villanova as well as powerhouses like Kentucky, Duke and Kansas to name a few. He also played alongside another highly touted prospect in fellow class of 2018 guard Eric Ayala, who holds his own offers from Temple, Penn State, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, Arizona and Indiana. Johnson said playing with those two vastly progressed his game in only a short time period.

“Coming to Bonner, I had it in my mindset to play at my best because [at Putnam] I played with some of the best [players] in the country in Hamidou and Eric,” Johnson said. “They bullied [and worked] me, which made me stronger. When I came to Bonner, I came down with a killer mentality and I proved my point.”

Johnson has certainly proved his point as he’s averaging 18.0 points per game and 13.0 rebounds though the first two contests. Additionally, he’s provided a stable presence in the paint filling in for John Hargraves, who graduated last year. Johnson posted three blocks against Penn Wood, one of which ricocheted off of the backboard and was corralled by teammate Tymir Cooper for a layup at the other end. While Concannon isn’t expecting Johnson consistently make blocks such as that one, he feels the rest of the team can breathe a little easier knowing his 6-8 stalwart will be waiting inside for the opposition.

“It’s nice to have presence in there. Guys have to at least think about that he’s in there,” Concannon said. “He’s just learning how to play the game. He hasn’t played much basketball. He played a little bit of AAU this summer but this is the first real organized basketball he’s played.”

“He’s getting better every week by just being around the game and playing. We think he has the potential to be great.”

Johnson is still raw but he’s continually improving his footwork as evidenced by a number of up-and-under and spin moves against a much smaller front line of Penn Wood. For a big man still learning the nuances of the game, he’s shown surprising touch from the free-throw line (11-17 against the Patriots). Johnson knows he still has a lot to work on but he’s come such a long way already, he’s not too worried about the road ahead of him when it comes to his development as a player. Still, he’s looking at this early stretch as a good sign but knows the type of talent his team will be facing once league play begins.

“It’s only two games so come [late] December and January other big stars [in the PCL] are coming ahead so we have to be ready for that,” Johnson said.


D1 Coverage:

Recruiting News:

Small-College News:

Tag(s): Home  High School  Recruiting  Staff  2018 Profiles  Ajiri Johnson  Rich Flanagan  Schedule/Standings  Catholic League  Bonner-Prendergast  Delaware Valley  Penn Wood