With an incredible freshman class for UConn Men’s Basketball, highlighted by players such as
Jordan Hawkins and Rahsool Diggins, Samson Johnson is a name that draws excitement and
buzz from coaches and fans alike. As the ESPN 41st ranked high school prospect journeys into
his freshman season with the Huskies, is it appropriate to compare Samson Johnson to his new
teammate, sophomore Adama Sanogo?
Evan: Samson Johnson is truly a one-of-a-kind prospect for the Huskies this year. I love the
skills that he brings to the table, whether it’s his impressive work ethic or an extraordinary block
rate that will provide a massive boost to UConn this upcoming year. While he is a unique talent
for the Huskies, he certainly gives comparisons to the current sophomore and big man Adama
Sanogo. With both big men coming from The Patrick School and both being top 100 prospects in
ESPN’s yearly ranking, the talent is definitely there for both players. Sanogo and Johnson are
both known for their killer work ethic and are certainly known to make opposing players pay
when they gather toward the paint. The Huskies have two incredible players in Sanogo and
Johnson, and the comparisons are clearly there when closely analyzed.
Stratton: Although I do see the connection that the two have with their work ethic and their high
school years at The Patrick School under coach Chris Chavannes, I still think their play style is
quite different. Throughout his freshman season, Sanogo did not attempt a three-pointer, while
Johnson largely played as a stretch four throughout high school. The ability for Johnson to open
up the offensive look when he’s on the floor makes him much more of a modern-day big, as
compared to Sanogo’s old-school grit and touch. Sanogo and Johnson also have very different
appearances. Sanogo is 6-foot-9 and a bulky 240 lbs, while the lankier Johnson stands at 6-foot11 and 205 lbs. While Johnson is a more proven shooter, Sanogo’s touch around the rim and
footwork is clearly better. Sanogo has soft hands and is able to convert his post moves around
anyone, while this skill is a bit less proven for Johnson.
Evan: One thing to keep in mind is Sanogo’s time with the team and how much he’s improved
under head coach Dan Hurley at UConn. With how valued Johnson’s work ethic is by Coach
Chavannes and Coach Hurley, I do think that Johnson will look to learn some of these skills from
Sanogo in the post and become more lethal offensively. This improvement will be key in
comparing the two big men. While physically they may be different, Sanogo and Johnson are
both extremely feared at the defensive end. I do envision Sanogo having higher blocking
numbers with his minutes going up this year as well. It’s also important to note how similar on
the rebounding end I expect them to be. As Sanogo’s minutes crept higher and higher toward the
end of the season, his number of rebounds did as well. With Johnson averaging over nine boards
in his senior season at The Patrick School, I know that the Huskies will be much more aggressive
on the glass this year and the big man combo of Johnson and Sanogo will certainly help
accomplish that goal.
Stratton: I do agree with you on the rebounding and defensive end; both have proven to be
complete menaces on that end of the floor. However, even though Johnson may take some
pointers from Sanogo, Hurley has proven to use the talent that he has recruited to its fullest
potential. It would seem unlikely to me that Johnson would stop shooting threes. Personally, I
see him having more of an impact similar to Akok Akok his freshman year: able to knock down
threes when needed and strong in the shot-blocking department. Sanogo, however, does not draw
the same parallel in my mind, with his lack of ability to shoot three-pointers, a quality that
defines Johnson’s game. In the modern era of basketball, there are two types of big men: ones
that hit the long ball and ones that can’t. I see Johnson and Sanogo on opposite sides of this
spectrum, serving as a backbone for how each of them play offensively, despite the similarities
in their defensive games.
Evan: I actually would say that Johnson will add to his game rather than take anything away.
With how valued the long ball is in modern basketball, it would be a poor decision for him to
take that away from his array of weapons on the court. I certainly believe that Johnson’s
consistent shooting with the Huskies could very well push Sanogo to make this change in his
game as well. It is very important for Sanogo to develop his game even further and a three-point
shot would certainly take it there. While they may not be carbon copies of each other on the
offensive end, a much-needed mid-range or three-point jump shot from Sanogo could very well
push him even closer in comparison to Johnson. It’s important that Johnson and Sanogo both
work to be consistent with their killer defensive mentality as well as fierce with taking their
offensive game to the next level.