Around Santa Monica College he’s known as “Baby Shaq”He’s not Shaquiille O’Neal, 7-foot-1 and one of the most dominating centers in basketball. But he is Shakir Johnson, 6-foot-9 and, at times, a dominating center on the community college level.He’s a freshman with skills. He runs well and has good hands and some quick moves in the pivot. But he’s inexperienced and foul-prone. He hasn’t made SMC a champion in his first year out of L.A. Dorsey High but the major universities are beginning to show some interest, no doubt intrigued by what “Baby Shaq” might become with another year on the community college level.In many Corsair games this season, Johnson would have his moments, then fade away, spending considerable time on the bench. But in recent weeks, Coach Trevor Shickman has made him a larger part of the offense, frequently reminding his players it’s important for the big man to be involved.“Good things happen when he has the ball,” is Shickman’s favorite speech during time outs.Last Wednesday, Johnson offered a glimpse of what he ultimately may be able to do more consistently. Besides blocking shots, rebounding and passing, he scored 22 points in a 94-84 conference victory over L.A. Valley.The key was that Johnson didn’t pick up his first foul until nearly halftime. He did eventually foul out, but not before leading the Corsairs to a safe lead.With guard Aaron Harris returning following a one-game absence due to illness and Johnson active, SMC was sharp early. The Corsairs led, 11-6, 31-14 and 43-24 before falling victim to defensive pressure. A batch of turnovers allowed the visitors to come within eight points, 49-41 at intermission.The Corsairs’ lead was only 53-48 when they surged again. Forward Rondell Eskridge was on the scoring end of several fast breaks and finished with 17 points. SMC has had trouble finishing off games when they have a second half lead, but that was not the case this time.It was incorrectly reported in this space last week this was the last home game of the season, Actually the SMC women and men will host one more doubleheader – February 18 against Citrus College.
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