JoVann Johnson has made a Jerry Rice-like recovery from a serious knee injury. The North Idaho College forward hopes his return lasts longer than Rice’s.
Johnson, injured in November, is expected to play tonight when NIC returns to Scenic West Athletic Conference men’s basketball action against Snow at 7:30 at Christianson Gym.
“He’s just out of shape,” NIC coach Hugh Watson said. “We’ll just play him 3-4 minutes at a time and maybe save him more for Saturday’s game (against No. 5 Dixie).”
NIC’s women (9-2, 1-2 SWAC) face Snow (10-5, 2-2) tonight and Dixie (13-2, 2-2) Saturday. Both games are at 5:30.
Johnson’s return, and that of 6-foot-11 Eihab Al-Arorey, who turned down an offer to play professionally overseas, changes NIC’s makeup. The Cardinals (10-3, 1-2) will be more physical and interior-oriented than they were in the first half of the season.
Though just 6-foot-2, Johnson operates inside and consistently draws fouls. Al-Arorey is roughly the size of a doorway and pounds the boards.
Per usual, Snow (14-2, 3-1) is a deadly outside shooting team. Tyson Hancock and Brandon Fries have combined for 66 of Snow’s 95 3-pointers.
Dixie (16-0, 4-0) is loaded. Last week at a tournament in Las Vegas, Dixie beat Yavapai (Ariz.) by 51 and Casper (Wyo.) by 41. Casper was ranked No. 20 in the latest NJCAA poll.
By comparison, Utah Valley, tied for second in the SWAC, defeated Yavapai by 2.
“They’ve got everything,” Watson said of Dixie. “We’ve got to have these two games. If we get beat here, we’re probably out of the league race.”
NIC women’s coach Greg Crimp feels the same way.
“I don’t think we can afford to lose at home,” he said.
NIC has won twice since returning from break. The pre-holiday roster remains intact, but Crimp is hoping for second-half improvement.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did before the break,” he said. “We’ve got to have better team chemistry, better shot selection and we definitely have to rebound better.”
Utah Valley’s Beau Archibald, a transfer from Washington State, is expected to have season-ending knee surgery next week… . Utah Valley, which leads the SWAC women, posted huge wins last week - 115-28 over Compton and 103-18 over Capilano - but also lost to Eastern Arizona 54-43 at a tourney in Las Vegas.