Purdue's 'Baby Bark' likes the comparison

April 02, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- People who have followed Purdue women's basketball center Leslie Johnson have given her the nickname "Baby Bark."

And by the irrepressible freshman's reckoning, the comparisons between herself and Phoenix Suns star Charles Barkley are apt, right down to the observation that both are, as was said of Barkley in college, round mounds of rebounds.

"It [the comparison] never makes me angry," said Johnson. "He's a very successful player, and I hope to be some day. I like his style. He's very aggressive. He's very strong and he goes after it. That's the way I want to play, too."

Johnson, whose weight is not listed in the team's media guide, is 6 feet 1, two to three inches shorter than most centers she faces. Yet, like Barkley, Johnson makes up for her lack of height with agility, combined with strength and a keen sense of proper positioning.

Johnson, like Barkley, is likely to speak her mind.

For instance, during an early-season Big Ten news conference, she said that the Boilermakers, who have no seniors, went 8-10 in the league last season and missed the NCAA tournament, would get to the Final Four.

"It was a goal that I had when I signed, something that I always wanted," said Johnson yesterday. "I knew we were going to be young, but there was no doubt about it that we had a lot of talent."

And thanks to Johnson's team-leading 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, the Boilermakers have reached their first Final Four.

One place Johnson and Barkley, who have never met, part company is that Barkley believes athletes shouldn't be role models.

"I do consider myself a role model, because it's inevitable that if kids see you in this spot, that they want to be like you," said Johnson.

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