Johnson sets tone for Arizona Wildcats basketball

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Tyler Besh | The Daily Wildcat Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

While a good amount of the quality in Arizona’s 2013-14 men’s basketball team comes from strong underclassmen talent, the leadership positions won’t be filled by freshmen phenoms like Aaron Gordon or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Instead, upperclassmen like Nick Johnson will provide the knowledge and experience necessary to support the team.

Last year, Johnson set the defensive tone for the Wildcats and was a major contributor for Arizona during its run in the Pac-12 Tournament, where he averaged a team-leading 14.0 points per game.
In Arizona’s 79-69 victory against Colorado last March, he forced Spencer Dinwiddle to go 4-of-12 from the floor and led the team to the semifinals despite key turnovers and bad bounces. The Gilbert, Ariz., native subsequently earned an honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.

This year, he represents one of just three potential upperclassmen starters, all of whom are guards, and is projected to line up next to either senior Jordin Mayes or junior transfer T.J. McConnell.

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Johnson, the team’s starting shooting guard, provides a voice for the team off the court and is responsible for keeping the Wildcats confident and pumped up in the locker room.

“T.J., Mayes, [and I] are trying to [take a larger] leadership role and trying to ease in some of these freshman,” Johnson said. “I’ve had four really great leaders in my time here to learn from. My freshman year, I had Kyle Fogg who was like a big brother to me and really taught me to work hard all season and fight for what you want. Then [last year], I had Solomon [Hill], Kevin [Parrom] and Mark [Lyons] who each [taught] me a few traits themselves.”

Johnson should be on the court more than Mayes, so he can play a bigger role and although McConnell is a point guard, the transfer from Duquesne played his first two seasons in the Atlantic 10, not the more difficult Pac-12. The very athletic Johnson is ideally suited to fill the leadership role.

This year, Johnson’s experience will provide a stable foundation, from which the team will be able to grow and become stronger offensively and defensively.

— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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