College basketball preview: Ogdensburg's Johnson takes hold of SUNY Potsdam's backcourt

Nov. 9—POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam men's basketball coach Jim Bechtel saw MeSean Johnson play in many high school boys basketball games with Ogdensburg Free Academy.

Last year he got to enjoy watching Johnson, now a sophomore, run his team's offense as the point guard.

"I have seen him grow up, honestly, from being a kid at camps," Bechtel said. "I knew he was going to come in and be able to step in right away and help us out. There are some growing pains you go through, but he did everything we hoped for.

"He is an impressive young man. He is everything you could ask for in a student athlete on and off the court. He's a fantastic student. He worked hard every day. All those qualities lead to being good on the court. He's a fantastic passer. He cares about winning and us getting the right shot."

Johnson started in all 24 games as a freshman, helping the Bears to a 12-12 record.

He averaged 8.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds. He also lead the team with 40 steals.

Johnson was supposed to begin his career a season earlier, but COVID-19 took away what would have been his first collegiate season.

"It threw things off for a lot of people," Johnson said of COVID-19. "It kind of helped me in a sense because my knees were really bad when I came in my freshman year. I had double-knee surgery. It gave me the time to recover. Coming from high school to college, I thought I was ready to play, and playing last year kind of showed me that my actual freshman year I wasn't as ready as I thought I was."

When Johnson first took the court last year he was back to being one of the youngest guys on the team.

"I noticed the pace of the game and the height," Johnson said. "My first game last year we played Skidmore and their center was probably (6-foot-8). In high school I never played anyone 6-8 unless it was AAU when I played for Syracuse Selects. Closest I played that height in high school was maybe (Canton's Declan Porter)."

Johnson has always been a great passer and the size of the college players hasn't really changed much in his ability to distribute the ball.

"It changed a little bit, but for the most part I think it's the same," Johnson said. "There are certain passes you can't make at this level, compared to the high school level."

One area of his game Johnson works on is becoming a great shooter. Last year he made 43 percent of his shots and 35 percent on 3-point attempts. He also made just 60.7 percent of his free throws.

"I'm always working on my whole craft, but shooting for sure," Johnson said. "In high school I never needed to shoot that much. Coming to the college level everyone kind of has to shoot. Now, compared to high school, I am a lot more confident in my shot. It took a lot of time. I work on staying close to the rim. Not starting out at the 3-point line. Once you see the ball go through the net a million times you start to get more confident. When you are shooting the same shot over and over again you get used to shooting like that."

Said Bechtel, "The biggest step for MeSean is being able to be a complete point guard, being able to score a little more and being consistent shooting the ball. That next step is being able to knock down the open shots."

OFA was a consistent winner when Johnson played there and Bechtel said he feels he can be similar with the Bears.

"He's one of the fundamental pieces for us," Bechtel said. "I picture MeSean and a couple other (younger) guys as that next phase."

Johnson has at least two more years, including this season, to play for the Bears, but if he wants he can also play a fifth season.

He also already has plans for what he will do after college.

"As of right now I plan to be a strength and conditioning coach, or a personal trainer, athletic trainer, something alone those lines," Johnson said. "As of right now I kind of plan to move away somewhere. I feel like there will be a lot more opportunity with more colleges, pro teams."

PREVIEW: MEN'S BASKETBALL

Clarkson Golden Knights

Coach: Jeff Gorski (9th year).

Records: 6-19 overall (3-15 Liberty League)

Roster: Dante Joefield (Sr. G), Aydin Kocak (Fr. F), Ryan Miles-Ferguson (Sr. G), Nick Budesheim (Sr. G), Matteo Sinon (So. G), Frankie Rainville (Jr. G), Sean Enelamah (So. F), Gabe Murphy (Jr. F), Kreem George (Gr. G), Jack Dalgety (So. F), Malachi Harris (Jr. G), Blake Gearhart (Sr. G), Matthew Parent (So. G), Garret Delaney (Jr. G), Finn Cork (So. F), Teddy Fravel (Sr. F).

St. Lawrence Saints

Coach: Chris Downs (23rd season).

Records: 16-10 (10-8 Liberty League).

Roster: Alexi Twahili (Fr. G), Trey Syroka (Sr. G), Miles Davis (Sr. G), Tommy Flanagan (So. G), Andy Downs (Jr. G), Carter Storey (Jr. G), Charlie VonOehsen (Fr. G), Gavin Macaulay (So. G), Liam McDonald (Sr. G), Chris Downs Jr. (Fr. F), Aidan Macaulay (So. G), Andrew Cowan (So. F), Trent Adamson (Sr. F), Tate Kuiper (Fr. G), Jack Wirtanen (So. F), Will Engelhardt (Sr. F).

SUNY Canton Kangaroos

Coach: Dylan Seikel (First year).

Records: 13-12 (8-4 NAC).

Roster: DeMerrill Levy (Sr. G), Quran DuBois (Sr. G), Sammy Angelo (Jr. G), Juztin Chambers-Phillips (Sr. G), JJ Omaga (Sr. G), Brandon Averitt (Sr. G), Juan Lamarche (Sr. G), Brennan Harmer (Jr. G), Moustapha Biao (So. G), Jasin Ali (Jr. G), Fadil Atcha-Dedji (Sr. F), Eli Larson (So. F), Terrance Fields (Jr. G), Harry Quinlan (So. G), Daryll Walker (Fr. F), Chris Stephen (Jr. F), Michael Nunnally (So. G).

SUNY Potsdam Bears

Coach: Jim Bechtel (Seventh year).

Records: 12-12 (10-8 SUNYAC).

Roster: Ahamadou Sillah (Jr. F), MeSean Johnson (So. G), Brian Pod (Jr. G), Austin Dropkin (Sr. G), Reginald Smith Jr. (Sr. G/F), Isaac Oduro Jr. (Jr. G), Brandon Segar Jr. (Sr. F), Jeff Williamson (So. G), Parker Kelly (So. F), Colton Huestis (Jr. G), John Blackwood (Fr. G), Aidan Zehr (So. F), Jaylin Williamson (So. F), Chris Becker (Jr. C).

PREVIEW: WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Clarkson Golden Knights

Coach: Maureen Webster (8th year).

Records: 5-19 (4-14).

Roster: Cassidy Dumont (So. G), Mariah Benavides (Sr. G), Lauryn Withrow (Sr. G), Likhita Chanda (So. G), Raelin Burns (Fr. G), Lexi Huiatt (So. G), Laney Tiernan (Fr. F), Ruthie Nolan (So. G), Elaina Porter (Sr. F), Bella Doyle (Fr. F), Grace Towler (So. G), Veronica Tache (So. G), Isabelle Vaccaro (Fr. G), Kailey Johnson (So. G).

St. Lawrence Saints

Coach: Dan Roiger (12th year).

Records: 22-5 (14-4).

Roster: Kristen Varin (Jr. G), Olivia Middleton (Sr. G), Caelan McHarney (Fr. G), Abby Doin (Jr. G), Cam Roberts (Jr. F), Hannah Van Dyke (Fr. G), Sierra Sanson (Sr. G), Margaret Dougher (Fr. G), Shannon Rhone (Jr. G), Katie Chisholm (Jr. G), Jocelyn Ollinger (Fr. G), Jackie Malley (Fr. G), Jasmine Jenkins (So. G), Olivia Barringer (Sr. F), Mason Baker-Schlendering (Fr. F), Nicole Jeffrey (Jr. G/F).

SUNY Canton Kangaroos

Coach: Chris Klassen (Third year).

Records: 13-12 (7-6).

Roster: Emma Perez (Fr. G), Autumn Kunes (Sr. G), Joie Culkin (Sr. G), Emma Plumley (So. G), Shannyn St. Andrews (Jr. F), Samantha Dayter (Sr. G), Kennady Allen (So. F), Hayleigh Armstrong (So. G), Emily Shook (Fr. G), Hope Aniceto (Fr. G), Emily Brooks (Jr. G), Sophia Munoz (Fr. F), Marijke Kroon (Fr. C), Jayda Pina (So. C).

SUNY Potsdam Bears

Coach: Brittany Cohen (Seventh year).

Records: 12-12 (7-11).

Roster: Xy'El Bradford (So. G), Dyamon Hunter (Sr. G), Mikayla Shipley (So. G), Jakia Howard (Sr. F), Carley Hill (So. G), Zavia Jaime (So. G), Akalla Albright (So. F), Caroline LaFountain (Sr. G), Lauren Martin (Sr. G), Mandy Barnell (Sr. F), Bella Barner (Jr. G), Abbigail Crahan (So. G), Jenna Cotter (So. F).