Johnson to play for JC in Salem, Ore. |

Johnson to play for JC in Salem, Ore.

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Tribune fileCurtis Johnson is determined to play at the University of Oregon after playing for Chemeketa

During his two-year basketball career at South Tahoe High, Curtis Johnson has been the center of attention. That burden won’t be necessary next season for the 6-foot-8 Johnson.

Johnson has decided to play for Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., where the Storm depends on 7-0 center Chris Botez. Botez, an all-conference selection, averaged 15 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a freshman.

“He can sneak in and start to make a name for himself without feeling he has to do it all,” said Chemeketa coach David Abderhalden. “It’s going to be very beneficial to him and us. Not only do they get to practice against each other, but we get to put them both on the floor at the same time and that’s going to make it real tough on opponents.”

Johnson scrimmaged with the team during a recent visit and came away impressed with his complementary teammate.

“He was cool and good, too,” Johnson said. “He opened a lot more things on the floor for me. I felt like I was right in place. I think I did a real good job rebounding by keeping after it. When the ball went in the air, most of the guys turned away.

“I’m anxious. I want to find out if I have the right attitude and competitiveness to go against the big boys.”

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Johnson, a two-year all-Northern Nevada League first-team center Curtis averaged 12.4 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Vikings last season.

“It’s a great decision,” said STHS coach Derek Allister. “They run their JC program like a four-year program.”

“Curtis has so much going for him and he hasn’t played a lot. Once he plays 60 JC games, he could be dramatically different than he is today.”

Johnson was recruited by several Pac-10 teams, most notably by conference tournament champion Oregon.

“Curtis has to work on his lower body to have more pop,” Allister said. “He also has to refine his low-post moves and find one signature move to score with down low.”

After meeting with Johnson in South Lake Tahoe and Salem, the Chemeketa coach thinks his recruit has the No. 1 quality to improve.

“He seems very commited to doing those things he needs to be prepared for next season. If you have the right attitude, all the other stuff falls into place,” Abderhalden said. “I don’t think he realizes how good he can be yet.”

In the 10 years Abderhalden has been associated with Chemeketa as a head coach or assistant, the Storm has sent 50 players to four-year schools.

“He has a bright future ahead of him and he has some great raw tools to work with because of his size and athleticism,” Abderhalden said. “He has to continue to develop his skills and I think we’ll be able to help him do that.

Johnson, who was recruited by Boise State, Oregon and Washington State, hopes to play for Oregon after two seasons at Chemeketa.

“I think it’s good that I’m going to a JC first. I need to work even harder. They go up and down the court and shoot and get back and forth (with ease). Right now I don’t have any of those talents that they have.

“I can get bigger, faster and stronger and then I can come in as a threat to a university.”

Johnson began to doubt his ability to go directly to an NCAA Division I team after playing against Kansas-bound David Padgett of Reno High.

“Before I played Padgett, I thought I was pretty good and I would go to a big college. After I played against him, I thought he played like a college basketball player and he took a lot out of me,” Johnson said.