Nick Johnson played travel ball with Josiah Turner in high school and actually helped recruit the talented point guard to join him in the Arizona Wildcats' highly regarded freshman class of 2011.
Their relationship is strong on and off the court.
But Johnson is rooming this fall with Sidiki Johnson, another of UA's well-regarded freshmen, while Turner is living with Sudanese big man Angelo Chol.
Instead of one close friend on the team, Nick Johnson and Turner now have three.
"We're all real, real close," Turner said, "and we're starting to get closer to the upperclassmen."
Nick Johnson, the glue of the class, even went out to New York for the iS8 all-star tournament in May to room with and play with Sidiki Johnson, in an attempt to build chemistry on and off the court with the player he has no blood relationship and no background with despite their shared last name.
"That's my boy," Johnson said of Sidiki Johnson. "We wanted to start off a little bit before we got here. I know I'd seen him at the camps, but I never actually played with him."
Nick Johnson said the four Wildcat freshmen, all of whom spent at least part of the summer in Tucson, have already "had extra time to just hang out and become brothers."
That's a good thing for the Wildcats, of course, because relationships, temperaments and egos are bound to be tested over the next few weeks. Arizona will begin two weeks of intensive full-length practices Friday, broken up with the Oct. 22 Red-Blue Game, before resuming preparations for their Nov. 7 regular-season opener against Valparaiso.
And, oh yeah, they also have to collectively help replace a guy named Derrick Williams. Not to mention help, at least in the short term, offset the loss of wing Kevin Parrom, whose availability remains uncertain as he recovers from gunshot wounds.
"It's definitely pressure," Nick Johnson said. "Coming off an Elite Eight, there's always pressure. But you embrace that. You want that."
The only question is, do they want to practice, in the all-out style of coach Sean Miller, for three hours a day, nearly every day?
That answer will arrive soon.
"I'm really interested to watch our four freshmen go through two weeks of practice without a game, where you're really at it every day, hour after hour, and you wake up the next day and it starts all over again." Miller said Wednesday, at the team's annual preseason media day. "No matter how much we try to prepare there's nothing that really resembles that first two weeks of a college practice. We'll learn about each of those four guys at that time."
Here's what Miller knows so far, according to his media day comments:
• At 6 feet 3 inches and 190 pounds, Turner "really stands out as a young player, and he's a fun guy to play with on offense because he passes the ball. The more open-court situations he's in, the more comfortable he is."
• Chol "is one of the hardest workers on this team. … He has an incredible motor. He's in the gym constantly shooting shots, that's something you don't always know until they get here. His willingness to learn really stands out. On offense he's a face-up player, and on defense he can cover ground, block shots and do things that all teams love to have."
• Sidiki Johnson "is a physical low-post player. In some of our team workouts, he's scored around the basket, and he gives us a physicalness that our team really needs."
• Nick Johnson "is really trained well. Playing at (prep powerhouse) Findlay Prep, in that environment, trying to win a national high school championship, has made his transition an easy one if that's even possible. Nick is a winner, and I've really been impressed with how talented he is on defense."
Then again, it might not just be Nick Johnson who is prepared.
It might be all of the freshmen.
"This class is extremely good," said Parrom, a junior who arrived two years ago with Williams, MoMo Jones, Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko. "I think they're better than us when we came in. They're more ready, and they're going to get it going from the jump."
• What: Red-Blue Game
• Where: 2 p.m. Oct. 22