Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson leave early for the NBA
Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon and junior guard Nick Johnson officially announced on Tuesday afternoon that they are putting their names in for this year’s NBA Draft.
“Today is nothing but a good day for our program,” head coach Sean Miller said. “These are two guys from great families that took time to consider — to get the facts from the NBA, have all the information and then make the best decision for them. I wholeheartedly support [them].”
Gordon, who was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, averaged 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with 38 starts for the Wildcats this year.
Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, led the UA in shooting with an average of 16.3 points per game and proved to be one of the best defenders in the country. After the season ended, both Johnson and Gordon were named All-Americans with Johnson being named to the first team.
Gordon’s choice was hardly surprising. He had long been projected to be a one-and-done and is expected to be a NBA Draft lottery pick.
“I can certainly see why the NBA thinks so highly of him,” Miller said. “Aaron has so many gifts as a player: His high energy level, love for the game, competitive fire and ability to blend into a team … are a few of these. … Whichever franchise chooses him is getting the ultimate winner.”
Gordon said that choosing to declare for the draft was one of the toughest decisions he’s made in his life. He added that while he is leaving Arizona to pursue professional endeavors, he still has the desire to graduate sometime in the future.
“The possibility of coming back and winning a national championship was huge [factor],” Gordon said, “but Arizona is going to be successful at the highest level with or without me. That’s just the nature of the program.”
Gordon said that in the end, he needed to make the decision that was right for him, and decided that meant going to the NBA. He said that ever since the first grade, he has wanted to compete at the highest level, and that’s what he intends to do.
Johnson’s decision was a bit more difficult. Due to his size and ability, there’s no set position that quite fits him at the NBA level.
This, coupled with the fact that the team got so close to playing for its national championship goal, served as a major temptation for Johnson to return for his senior year.
“I can’t stress it enough — it’s been a great experience at Arizona [and] a great three years,” Johnson said. “I’ve taken time to think about my decision since the end of the season and really talked to coach Miller, my family and a few people I trust. The feedback that I got was something I was confident in, so I’ve chosen to put my name into this year’s draft.”
Miller finished by saying that he is anxious to watch both Gordon and Johnson mature and develop as they take the next step toward successful careers in the NBA.
“Two different people are going to go on and do great things,” Miller said, “and, most importantly, represent our university and our basketball program with tremendous class for a very long time.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17