In desperate need of another big man, the Green Bay Phoenix have extended a scholarship offer to 6’9” forward Vance Johnson, a sophomore at Northeast Community College.
Northeast, which is located in Norfolk, Nebraska, is the same JUCO as the one listed on current Green Bay walk-on Kaharri Carter’s player bio on the Phoenix official website.
Originally from Chicago, Johnson helped his team to a 21-10 overall record while leading the team in both scoring (13.6 per game) and rebounding (9.0) this season. He also averaged 1.9 assists and nearly a block per game in 17.3 minutes of action and was named to the All-Region Second Team this past season.
Johnson does most of his work in the paint – he led the team in shooting at 60.2% from the floor – but showed he is capable of stepping out and knocking down a mid-range jumper. He is also a decent free throw shooter for a big man converting 69.5% of his attempts from the charity stripe this past season. His highlight reel showcases athletic dunks and volleyball spike type blocks.
He has seen his recruiting explode over the past few days adding offers from Green Bay, Bradley, Evansville, Arkansas-Little Rock, and New Mexico State just this week alone. He also has scholarship offers from Milwaukee and Kent State. He has set three official visits so far according to JucoRecruiting.com: Arkansas-Litter Rock (3/25), New Mexico State (4/7), and Milwaukee (4/16).
With the graduation of Kenneth Lowe, Green Bay is in need of an athletic big man to provide half-court offense and rim protection on defense. With senior Kerem Kanter being the only returning post player, Johnson would almost assuredly contribute right away next season. As of right now, the Phoenix only have three players taller than 6’5” on the roster for next season: Kanter (6’9”) along with stretch four forwards David Jesperson (6’8”) and incoming freshman Will Chevalier (6’8”).
As a two year JUCO player Johnson will have two years of eligibility remaining.
We now know the extent of the back injury that caused Green Bay’s prized freshman point guard to miss over a third of the past season.
According to Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Anderson suffered a fracture in his back only 7-minutes into Green Bay’s 83-73 win over Cleveland State at the Resch Center back on January 23rd. The significance of the injury at that time wasn’t known with some speculation that it might be back spasms.
“We go day-by-day to see how he recovers from it,” head coach Linc Darner told the Press-Gazette on February 2nd. “I couldn’t tell you if he’s going to be out another week or two weeks or three. I just go with what my trainers tell me and what our doctors tell us.”
Anderson would not play again as the injury ultimately cost him the final twelve games of the season. Amazingly, he suited up for Green Bay’s quarterfinal loss against UIC in the Horizon League Tournament and was available to play in an emergency situation had Darner chosen to do so.
But without having practiced for weeks the coaching staff decided not to play Anderson in the conference tournament loss to UIC. He also missed Green Bay’s loss at UMKC in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.
According to Venci, Anderson should make a full recovery and right now is “at 90 percent” and “good to go for all off-season activity.”
Anderson likely would’ve been a candidate for the Horizon League’s All-Freshman Team having finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. He also led the team in assists (2.7) and minutes (28.5) per game and was one of the team’s best shooters knocking down 37.6% from beyond the arc and 80.4% from the free throw line.
Green Bay's loss in the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinals to UIC marked the end of the most successful four year period in the program’s Division I basketball history.
It also marked the end of the college basketball careers of Green Bay’s six seniors – Kenneth Lowe, Turner Botz, Tevin Findlay, Charles Cooper, Jamar Hurdle, and Warren Jones.
Half of that group came in two seasons ago as part of head coach Linc Darner’s first recruiting class at Green Bay after he was hired in April of 2015. Cooper and Hurdle played key roles in their two seasons with the Phoenix and helped Green Bay make its first NCAA Tournament appearance last year since 1996.
“A couple of them came in with us when Coach Darner first got the job with Coop and Jamar,” associate head coach Randall Herbst said Sunday after the UIC loss on WNFL. “For those guys to be a part of taking us to the tournament last year and having a decent year this year, that was great.”
The third of that group was Jones, who came on strong during conference play this season en route to winning the Horizon League’s Sixth Man of the Year award. He averaged 10.0 points and 2.3 assists in 19.5 minutes per game this season as a senior and provided a much needed deep threat connecting on 37.3% of his three point attempts.
“Warren sat out last year when he first got here but he showed some great flashes this year of being able to score the basketball and being Sixth Man of the Year,” Herbst said.
Green Bay’s six seniors accounted for 60.5% of the team’s scoring this season and 61.1% of the total minutes played. Cooper led the team in scoring at 13.6 and minutes played at 26.3 per game.
You can tell a lot about a program or a sports franchise by the standards that they set for themselves.
Across the street from the Resch Center at Lambeau Field, the Packers proudly display the 13 seasons in which they won the NFL Championship, including 4 Super Bowl victories.
Inside Pauley Pavilion, the UCLA Bruins hang 11 banners celebrating national championships in mens basketball.
The Packers don’t hang banners for NFC North division championships. UCLA doesn’t even hang banners for Final Four appearances or Pac 12 Conference championships.
On the flip side, the Detroit Lions hang banners inside Ford Field proclaiming playoff appearances. The Indianapolis Colts hung an “AFC Finalist” banner at Lucas Oil Stadium after getting blown out by the New England Patriots in the 2014 AFC Championship game.
Back inside the Resch Center, at the south end of the arena hang several banners celebrating the finest seasons in Phoenix basketball history. Banners that proudly proclaim regular season and conference tournament championships along with postseason appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, and…..the CBI? The CIT?
Now I’m not saying that the Phoenix need to replicate the Packers or UCLA, but program standards speak volumes.
For a mid-major college basketball program, making the postseason is something that should be celebrated. However, with several postseason events now geared towards mid-majors such as the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), and Vegas 16, there are more slots than ever meaning it is much easier to make the post season.
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