COLUMBIA — Hillcrest High School coach John Schaefer sat down in the middle seat on the pressroom podium and introduced the players to the right and the left of him.
“This is Dorial Green-Beckham, you probably know who he is,” Schaefer said. “Juwan Johnson here, you probably don’t know who he is.”
Almost parenthetically, Schaeffer added, “But you probably do now.”
Green-Beckham, or DGB to most of the nation, had his highlights in Hillcrest’s 63-60 victory over Imagine College Prep in the Class 4 Semifinals Friday at Mizzou Arena. They included an alley-oop dunk to begin the second half, another thunderous dunk later in the third quarter and a dramatic block off the backboard with a minute remaining in the game. The senior who will join the Missouri football team this summer as the No. 1 recruit in the nation led the Springfield high school with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
When Green-Beckham picked up his fourth foul with 6:17 remaining, and the Hornets only leading by one point, though, it looked like Imagine College Prep had an opening.
Johnson, a sophomore guard for the Springfield high school, had other ideas. In the 1:53 Green-Beckham sat on the bench, Johnson scored eight consecutive points to maintain Hillcrest’s lead.
When Green-Beckham returned, he put the game away in the post and on the free throw line in the last four minutes, but it was Johnson’s effort that kept Hillcrest in the game. Johnson finished with 15 points.
“He’s as capable as anybody we have,” Schaefer said. “His brain gets in the way sometimes, but other than that athletically he’s second to nobody expect to this guy.” He nodded at Green-Beckham.
“And pretty much everybody is second to him.”
Johnson is used to playing in the shadow of Green-Beckham. Both were wide receivers on the football team last fall. According to John Beckham, the Hillcrest football coach and Green-Beckham’s adoptive father, Johnson is a Division 1 prospect. He’s not the national record holder for receiving yards, though.
John Beckham said after the game he thought Johnson showed once again on the basketball court that he’s not intimidated by anyone or anything.
“Juwan’s a player, a good athlete,” Beckham said. “I think he showed that today.”
Schaefer said because of foul trouble, it was the least Green-Beckham has played in the last 10 or 11 games. When he pulled him out of the game with six minutes remaining, though, he had confidence in Johnson and the other players on the floor.
“Obviously we need (Green-Beckham) on the floor to have that (size) advantage, but with him out of the game we can still score,” Schaefer said. “(Johnson) can hit the three and take it to the rim and, when he wants to, he can do a lot of things.”
Johnson’s eight-point streak consisted of a put-back layup and two fast-break layups. He was fouled on the second and made the free throw to give Hillcrest a 52-46 lead.
Johnson’s inexperience finally revealed itself in the pressroom after the game. While he did admit that “everything was flowing right” and that he took over the game when he had the chance, he concluded each question that came his way with how indebted he was to his team. Finally, Schaeffer turned to him and said, “You can say something else, too. That sounds really rehearsed.”
Green-Beckham left open the possibility this might not be the last weekend he plays basketball at Mizzou Arena. Both Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith have apparently left that option open.
According to John Beckham, though, it's not happening.
"It's so tough, Division I athletics," he said. "It's going to be a big change for him, managing his time. To add a whole other sport, I don't see it happening, especially in year No. 1. I think it's highly unlikely."
Hillcrest (26-5) will play Soldan International Studies High School (24-5) in the state championship at 8:30 Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Hillcrest also won the title in 2010.