When are we allowed to start recognizing players who are legitimately good instead of waiting on others who are only living off of hype? I only ask because we have a situation brewing in Tucson, Arizona. You know, the Arizona Wildcats are the number one ranked team in the entire country, they happen to have zero losses and they have a player named Nick Johnson, who is all that and a bag of chips.
Johnson, a junior, is averaging 16.7 points per for the Wildcats. While that number is more than solid, but doesn’t jump out at you like some others, it only tells part of the story. To sum of the entire book would be pretty difficult, but it has something to do with a 6’3″ guard shooting nearly .50 percent from the floor, getting to the charity-line for nearly five attempts per game and the fact that he — not Aaron Gordon — is Arizona’s best player.
That isn’t a slight to Gordon or other guys on the roster. In fact, Johnson being mostly overlooked nationally only highlights how little respect this team is getting as a whole. I mean someone like Kaleb Tarczewski would normally be getting buzzed about as a pro prospect because of his size and abilities, but in the world of only appreciating things we understand, the Wildcats are often under-appreciated.
Maybe no one is under-appreciated, undervalued or under-the-radar more than Johnson. He should be talked about more as a possible Naismith Award winner. He is now, to some degree at least, but he isn’t getting nearly the amount of buzz as players who live closer to the Atlantic Ocean or came to the college basketball scene with as much hype.
Sean Miller certainly knows what he has in Johnson. As Miller continues to bring the Arizona Wildcats back to a place of national relevance, fighting to be a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and continues in on his journey of dominating the recruiting trail, Miller continues to rely upon Johnson to be the team’s leader.
Nick Johnson being a leader, with all the new hodgepodge of attention they are going to get because of their record, is just what Arizona needs. Johnson isn’t only a very efficient offensive player. He is also a top-notch defender. We can point to as recently as yesterday as Johnson was tasked with stopping Utah’s Delon Wright. Sure, Wright ended up with 19 points but he only went 5-12 from the floor.
Here is where we are now. Johnson is clearly the front-runner to win the Pac-12 player of the year, he should also be one of the top five or so guys who are mentioned with winning the Naismith Award, but no one seems to care because he doesn’t play for Duke (or the like), have an other-worldly hype back story or live in or around the Atlantic Ocean.
Here is what you know, though. Nick Johnson is really, really good. Despite there being bigger, cooler or name-ier (?) names on Arizona, Johnson might just be one of the best players in the entire nation.
Eyeballs don’t lie!