Going into his first year of college basketball, UConn forward Samson Johnson will have a familiar face in the locker room to mentor him. Johnson’s teammate at Patrick School in Hillside, New Jersey was Adama Sanogo, who had a breakout campaign last year as a freshman.
Now that they’re teammates at UConn, Johnson has the chance to do the same under Sanogo’s guidance.
“It’s a big plus for me,” Johnson said. “We’re like big brother and little brother. We just keep building on that relationship every day.”
Sanogo had an ideal start to his career. He eased his way into the lineup but soon became a regular in the starting lineup just by the midway point of the season, impressing the coaching staff with his high-level footwork and physicality. By the end of the year, Sanogo was averaging 17.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, shooting an elite .718 at the rim.
“I watched pretty much all of the games [Sanogo] played in last year, and I would say that he had great improvement,” Johnson said.
Like Sanogo, Johnson had to move far from home to pursue his basketball dream. Originally from Lome, the capital city of Togo, Samson joined the SEED Basketball Academy before moving to Florida. He attended school there until he was 16 when he moved to the Patrick School in New Jersey.
Johnson’s work ethic and talent quickly made an impression on his high school coaching staff.
“We didn’t expect what we got out of him,” his high school coach Chris Chavannes told the Courant. “He was a game-changer late in the game, with huge blocks, huge putbacks, knocking down jump shots or finishing in transition.”
Johnson’s improvement over the course of his high school career was evident, even over the past year. In the six months from when he committed to UConn to when he arrived on campus, the high school senior shot up over 30 spots on the ESPN Top 100 recruiting rankings, from 71 to 39 overall.
“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Chavannes told the New Haven Register. “He makes strides every single day. People walk in the gym and see him, he catches your eye.”
Some analysts have Samson as the highest-ranked member of UConn’s 2021 class. Scouts have been raving about his physicality, 3-point shot and skill in the paint, comparing him to Patrick graduate Deandre Bembry, who was drafted No. 21 overall to the Atlanta Hawks and now plays in Toronto. He stands 6’11” and weighs 210 lbs., a force to be reckoned with in the paint with the skill to match.
Samson is now a part of an increasingly crowded UConn frontcourt, which includes breakout stars Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley, as well as Akok Akok, whose comeback story continues after being out with a long term injury last year.
“Everybody pushes each other. I’m ready for that, I enjoy it. They push me every day to be the best I can be,” Johnson said.