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Knights' Johnson commits to NAIA contender

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Spring Hill College was six minutes from the NAIA Division I final four when the Badgers' center fouled out. So, for the second consecutive year, Spring Hill's season ended in the national quarterfinals.

Just maybe, River Ridge center Casey Johnson believes, he can make the difference next time.

That is why Johnson has accepted a full scholarship to play for the Badgers.

"I'm really excited," Johnson said. "I couldn't believe I got a full-ride scholarship. I was real happy."

Said River Ridge coach Bill Linderman: "I know they're pretty excited about him coming up there."

Johnson, the Royal Knights' 6-foot-9 center, averaged 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season. He was a first team all-Sunshine Athletic Conference selection and was named to the Times All-Pasco County second team.

Ironically, it was Ridgewood coach Gary Anders who got the ball rolling.

While visiting with son Joe, the Rams' star guard, Anders told the Spring Hill coaching staff about Johnson. Then Linderman sent films and arranged for a workout here in April.

Then Johnson went to Mobile, Ala., to visit the school. Badgers coach Bill Carr was worried when Johnson made a visit to West Virginia Wesleyan College, but Johnson called him Sunday to tell him he was committing.

Linderman said Johnson will be playing for a contender next season.

"They have everyone coming back," Linderman said, "and they're looking for a big man."

Said Johnson: "I'll just be getting rebounds and scoring (second-chance) points. They want me lifting hard on the weights and I'll be going to a summer program so I can start getting better.

"(Carr) wants me to be one of the main guys there. He's looking for me to contribute to the college big-time."

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