Blog Entry

Trippin': Fairfield's Johnson's 1st-look at Stags

Posted on: September 16, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 3:06 pm

By Jeff Goodman

Sydney Johnson took over a team that returns its top two scorers and adds a potential Player of the Year candidate in Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders.

Johnson had several conversations with the coach that put this team together, Providence coach Ed Cooley, after taking the job.

"I think about all the talks," he said. "And 99.9 percent of what he told me is the case."

Cooley raved - as he has been doing to anyone and everyone who will listen - about his point guard Derek Needham. He spoke highly of the development of senior big man Ryan Olander, who averaged 10.4 points and 6.8 boards last season - and talked about the talent and potential of Sanders.

Johnson saw it for himself recently after taking the Stags to Italy - where they went 4-0.

In one game, Sanders lit it up for 35 points.

What Johnson learned on the trip: "These guys have the ability to learn quickly. We're going to keep some of the things that Ed (Cooley) did and we're certainly going to bring some of the things that have worked for us. They really soaked it up."

Who stood out: Rakim Sanders is as good as people described him to be - especially from a talent standpoint. At this point in the school year, he's walked the walk. He played well on the trip, he's smart and talented. The other thing that stood out for me is Derek Needham's leadership. He was talking all the time, taking charges and taking big shots."

What concerns Johnson: Iona, Rider, Manhattan, Siena. .. I look at our league and there are some really good teams."

- Freshman big man Vincent Van Nes made the trip, but did not play due to a foot injury. "He wasn't cleared, but we think he'll be back working out today."

- Johnson played Needham with fellow point guard Desmond Wade on the court together at times - and also had Wade as Needham's back-up. "We'll see how it plays out," Johnson said. "Des already has good chemistry with the guys since he was here all of last year. He's a guy who looks to get his teammates shots - and who wouldn't want to play with a guy like that?"

- On freshman forward Adam Jones: "He's very poised and has an old-man's game. He's a good fit for us and how we like to do things. He can pass, shoot and score - and he can play all over the court."
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