Former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who served as an assistant under Lute Olson in the 1986 FIBA World Championship, addressed Nick Johnson directly today about the junior guard’s decision to go to the NBA or return for his senior season in 2014-15.
Cremins, co-host of Sirius/XM’s College Sports Today, talked on the air with Johnson today from Dallas, where the Arizona standout is attending the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year banquet.
“My advice for you as a coach, do your research, talk to Coach (Sean) Miller,” said Cremins, who informed Johnson that Miller and younger brother Archie attended his basketball camp when they were young.
“We just had (Creighton senior) Doug McDermott on here and talked about him staying all four years. I’m going to ask the same question I asked him. How many kids came out last year and gave up their eligibility, what would you say?”
“I’m not sure, honestly,” Johnson answered.
“About 74 or 75,” said Cremins, who also coached at the College of Charleston.
“Wow,” Johnson responded.
The number is actually 77, with 46 of them from U.S. colleges, including Grant Jerrett, an Arizona freshman in 2013-14.
“And you know there were a lot of those kids who just weren’t ready,” Cremins continued. “My advice to you and I’ve been through it with my players, just do your research and talk to people that you trust, you love … it’s your life.”
“Yes sir,” Johnson said in a respectful tone.
“And the number one thing I told my players, the first thing you have to do to mature is you’re responsible for your own life,” Cremins said. “Once you make choices, you make choices you have to live with and if they’re right, wonderful, and if they’re wrong, you’ll remember who made those choices. But you’ve been a joy to watch. You’re great for college basketball.”
Johnson was not asked directly about whether he will go pro or not. Judging from comments made by Cremins it was agreed before the interview that the question would not be raised on the air.
After the commercial break following Johnson’s interview, Cremins said, “We did not want to put Nick on the spot. Now that he’s gone, we all know that he’s a junior. He has not made a decision whether or not he will enter the draft.
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“He has a big decision ahead of him. We hope he returns to the University of Arizona but if he doesn’t, we wish him nothing but the best in the NBA.”
Also in the interview, which included host Mark Packer, son of broadcaster Billy Packer, Johnson was asked about what it felt like to be in Dallas without his Arizona teammates.
“It’s definitely tough to come here and just watch all of the hype and buzz, all the posters on the hotels and stuff like that,” said Johnson, who was accompanied to Dallas for the Naismith banquet by Sean Miller, his mother Michelle Mayland Johnson and brother Chris, a walk-on forward with Arizona.
“To see how big this is and not to be a part of it … It’s been our goal since our team got together, so it’s kind of sad that we didn’t get here.”
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Johnson understandably went so far as to say that if he was not required to attend the banquet, “I definitely would not be going. It’s just the competitive spirit in me. I didn’t want to come here because we weren’t here as a team.”
The Wildcats’ season ended last Saturday with a 64-63 overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight in Anaheim, Calif. The topic of the controversial charging call on Johnson in the last seconds of the game was discussed by Packer and Cremins.
“I still have not looked at that play since then,” Johnson said. “It was a tough call, could’ve gone either way.”
After Wisconsin turned the ball over on the next play, Johnson was afforded the opportunity of a winning shot. But his attempt was late and off the mark.
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That sent Arizona and Johnson into the offseason, a period of great interest for Arizona followers who will want to know his future plans and those of sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski and freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Aaron Gordon, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is a projected lottery pick, which means he is likely leaving, although he has yet to make that official.
Johnson was asked by Cremins what part of his game he must work on heading into next season either at Arizona or potentially in the NBA.
“I would just say a lot of everything, being more comfortable with the ball in my hands,” Johnson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with some great point guards. Mark Lyons last year, (who is) more of a scoring point guard and T.J. McConnell, who was more of a passer this year.
“Just learning from them and taking the advice of Coach Miller and Coach (Damon) Stoudamire and stuff like that. Obviously, shoring up my shooting a little bit. Try not to go through those dry spells throughout the season.”