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Gibson Johnson looking for best fit

Salt Lake (Utah) Community College sophomore power forward Gibson Johnson is considering NC State and Hawaii.
Salt Lake (Utah) Community College sophomore power forward Gibson Johnson is considering NC State and Hawaii.
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Gibson Johnson is enjoying the journey of college basketball recruiting, but it will be coming to an end soon.

The Salt Lake (Utah) Community College sophomore power forward is considering either NC State or Hawaii for his last two years of college. The two schools are likely opposites of each other, but Johnson understands that traveling down a unique path can be a fun experience.

The Utah native has visited every U.S. state but three — Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota — are remaining on his list. Johnson’s upcoming official visit to NC State next Monday-through-Wednesday will be another important trip for him. The Wolfpack are looking to add multiple big men for next year, and have targeted the 24-year-old Johnson, who is fresh off of helping Salt Lake C.C. win the national junior college championship.

Johnson had nine points and four rebounds in a 74-64 win over Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College on March 19, which had fellow NCSU forward target Keanu Pinder. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Johnson averaged 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, plus blocked 29 shots. He shot 55.1 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three-point land for the 31-8 Bruins. He scored a season-high 30 points against Cochise (Ariz.) College on March 5.

“Any of my friends would tell you I am the most competitive that you can get,” Johnson said. “As a competitor, you want to play the best. The ACC is the best, and that would be a lot of fun.”

Johnson officially visited Hawaii in late April. The Rainbows reached the NCAA Tournament in March, but aren’t eligible for the postseason next year. The beach life is a different alternative for Johnson to consider.

“For me, I have to find the right fit for me and where I’ll be happiest,” Johnson said. “It will be about what will best provide me with opportunities after college, including a professional career overseas.”

Johnson is already well on his way to getting his degree, entering college with credit already. He plans to major in business administration.

Johnson was a 5-10 sophomore guard at one point at Centerville (Utah) Viewmont High, which is just north of Salt Lake City. The Utah Utes fan growing up was cut from his high school team junior year, but then grew six inches in six months for his senior year. He enrolled part time at Dixie State, and then went on his two-year Mormon Mission to Brazil.

Johnson got discovered playing pickup basketball and got recruited to Salt Lake Community College.

“I was told that I wouldn’t get much time, but at the first game, I was a starter,” Johnson said. “I had a special time at Salt Lake Community College.”

Johnson had the chance to play against some of the Utah players or European pros during past summers. He knew he could help a Division I program. The title run helped eliminate any doubts.

Johnson was particularly proud of going for 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists, in a big 83-47 win over Gillette College of Wyoming in the national tournament semifinals. Oregon-bound Kavell Bigby-Williams went 2 of 10 for seven points and nine rebounds against Johnson and the Bruins.

“When we made it to the national tournament, I showed what I could do,” Johnson said. “I showed on the national level that I could play to the coaches watching. I guess I caught the right eye.”

NC State assistant coach Heath Schroyer was recruiting Johnson when he was head coach at Tennessee-Martin. When he made the move to the Wolfpack, the recruiting relationship followed.

“I’m familiar with NC State, and I know they have some good bigs, and Cat Barber was obviously a good talent,” Johnson said. “The signing of Dennis Smith, I saw on Twitter a while back.”

SLCC coach Todd Phillips has known Shroyer for years. The latter was an assistant coach or head coach on the West Coast for 18 years.

“Gibson is kind of an old-school big,” Phillips said. “He’s not overly athletic, but moves really well, especially laterally. He led our conference and probably the country in charges taken. He had seven or eight at the national tournament.”

Phillips pointed out that Johnson’s leadership skills and ability to play team defense will make him an ideal fit somewhere next year.

“He can score in a lot of different ways for us,” Phillips said. “He was just real consistent for us in the tournament, scoring 10-to-12 a game. When he started hitting threes down the stretch, teams were just in trouble.”

Johnson envisions being a face-up stretch four on the college level.

“I feel I am a pretty unique big growing up as a guard and having that kind of skill-set,” Johnson said. “I was known for my three-point shot and I can stretch the floor. I’m big, strong and quick enough to guard in the post. [NC State] has some really athletic bigs and shot-blockers inside. They don’t have someone that stretches the floor, so that is something I bring.

“I am also unselfish on the floor and don’t care about my own stats. I just want the win.”

Johnson will also bring an outgoing nature to whatever college lands him. He’s been part of The Color Run, which is an untimed 5K, which is used to bring individuals together with different colors thrown during the run. He previously came to North Carolina due to The Color Run.

“Sometimes I’m the MC and sometimes I’m the guy leading the crowd,” Johnson said. “It can be 10,000 people and be a fun time. That has allowed to travel all over the United States.”