State MVPs came up big when it mattered most

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

There weren't a lot of things Green River's 6-foot-6 big man couldn't do on the basketball floor. He could score from the post, he was a great rebounder, he was a great 3-point shooter and he could play point guard — which became necessary in several state tournament games after Green River's starter broke his ankle.

What separated him from his peers though was scoring ability.

He averaged 33.4 points throughout his senior year, scoring in the 40s on six occasions and in the 50s twice.

"The funnest thing about Justin was watching him be able to score that many points. Some of his best games were our toughest games. He scored 40 points against Grand. That last night (at state) we played Liahona and he scored 40 of our 43 points. The kid can shoot. He's so talented," said Green River coach Tom Hughes.

His 33.4 scoring average was nine points more than anyone in the state this year. In fact, no player has averaged more than 27 points per game in the last decade, and his 835 points this season ties him for the third most in state history.

Johnson was also a dominant rebounder, averaging nearly 18 per game.

"He's always where the ball is, that's how you get a lot of rebounds. He's just a great athlete," said Hughes.

Unlike most 1A stars who rarely are taken seriously at the next level, Johnson actually earned a scholarship to play at Utah Valley University next year.

"It's huge. We were really excited about it. We took the whole team up there and watched a game and it was pretty exciting for a little school like us," said Hughes.

email: jedward@desnews.com