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Gwinnett Grads: Former North star Johnson one of nation's top throwers

One of Kibwe Johnson's old high school coaches, Jim Yike, has heard the highest of praises regarding the former North Gwinnett track and field standout.

Yike heard from one coach who described Johnson as "the future of American throwing in the discus and the hammer."

That coach may end up being right.

In terms of distance,

Johnson already is one of the nation's best throwers. He said hearing the comment about his future was exciting, particularly given the years of effort that have gone into his craft.

"It makes me feel good to hear (that I have a bright future)," Johnson said. "I think everybody has to pay their dues and I've been throwing for awhile now. I guess it takes a long time to get to the level of trying to compete internationally, so it's good to hear that."

Johnson also is happy about Monday, the day he becomes eligible to compete for the Ashland University (Ohio) track and field and legendary coach Jud Logan, a four-time Olympian. No longer does he have to attend meets with the "unattached" label beside his name.

It's been a long journey to this point for the 24-year-old. A Georgia signee, he scored at the SEC Championships as a freshman, but academic issues caused him to leave the school. He ended up at

Moorpark Community

College (Calif.), where he even played football, and then moved to Ashland to train with the prestigious Ashland Elite Track Club.

He attended North Central State Junior College in Ohio to regain his college eligibility, paying his way to meets and traveling with the Ashland throwers. As of Monday, he officially has teammates.

"I like the whole college side of track," said Johnson, who has three more semesters of college eligibility and has thought of playing football for Ashland this fall. "Athletically I've progressed from the path I've taken, but I also like helping out the team. We'll probably have a good shot at the national title in the winter or spring."

What Johnson does at the college level could be amazing.

Earlier this month he won the 35-pound weight throw at the Oiler Open to earn USA Track and Field Athlete of the Week honors. His first-place toss of 80 feet, 6 inches would have easily broken the all-time college record of

78-93⁄4. But the mark didn't count because he wasn't

affiliated with a school.

The 80-6 toss was the third longest in U.S. history - only two other Americans have surpassed the 80-foot mark in the weight throw - and the 11th best throw ever. While it's fun to win competitions and aim for records, the weight throw (an effective training tool for the hammer throw) isn't his predominant long-term focus.

The Olympics don't include the weight throw, so his aim in 2008 will be on the hammer and discus. His hammer throw of 256-8 was the longest in the U.S. this year and his discus toss of 213-7 was seventh nationally.

Those kind of distances are what led to the comments heard by Yike, and it's why Johnson has set his future goals high.

"To be honest, I think I've progressed past just making it to the Olympics," Johnson said. "I think, unless I screw up big time, that will happen. My goals now are more like getting medals in the Olympics, setting American records and things like that."

Sanford signed to Italian basketball team

South Gwinnett grad Nakia Sanford switched professional basketball teams on Thursday when she signed with Umana Venezia of Italian Serie A1, Italy's top women's division. The 6-foot-4 post, a veteran of three WNBA seasons with the Washington Mystics, left Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Israel) to join Umana Venezia. Sanford played last season in Belgium.

Bostain goes for career high

Furman guard Robby Bostain, a Brookwood grad, scored a career-high 27 points on Thursday night as the

Paladins defeated Kennesaw State 83-76 in the first round of the Jack In The Box Holiday Classic. Bostain made 15 of 20 free throws and 6 of 12 field goals in the win. He also had four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Buford grad Andre Morgan, a freshman at Kennesaw State, had nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds in the loss.

Arnold's hot shooting

A recent streak of hot shooting has former Berkmar star Wayne Arnold, now at Tennessee State, ranked third nationally in 3-point field goal percentage among Division

I-A men's basketball players. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has made 55.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

Arnold made 7 of 8 shots from 3-point range in a

25-point game vs. Eastern Illinois recently and also had a 7-for-8 effort on 3-point shots in a 23-point game at Ohio State.

For the season Arnold has made 55.0 percent of his shots from 3-point range, making 22 of 40. He averages 13.0 points and 4.6 rebounds.

Flagler gets third-team honors

Norcross grad DuVaughn Flagler, a wide receiver at Gardner-Webb (N.C.), was named to The Football Gazette's I-AA All-American list as a third-team selection. He had 55 catches for 829 yards this season along with a Big South record 13 touchdown catches. He also set conference game records with 14 catches for 210 yards vs. Wofford.

Bostic starting at Presbyterian

Norcross grad Bryan Bostic is starting as a true freshman on the Presbyterian College (S.C.) men's basketball team. Bostic averages 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds and has led the team in scoring three times.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnett

dailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.