Johnson on Wooden list
Apparently, the rest of the country is becoming aware that Nick Johnson has been probably the best player on the No. 1-ranked team.
Whereas Aaron Gordon was the Wildcats’ only representative on the 50-man Wooden Award preseason watch list, Johnson was added to the Wooden Award’s midseason watch list Wednesday.
UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Oregon’s Joseph Young were the other Pac-12 players named to the midseason Wooden list.
For what it’s worth, two statistical analysts also have Johnson and Gordon high up their lists: ESPN’s John Gasaway puts Johnson at No. 16 and Gordon at No. 18, and Ken Pomeroy has Johnson third and Gordon ninth.
NBA still loves Gordon
Of course, when you’re talking NBA prospects, the equation changes a bit. Gordon is still Arizona’s far-and-away best-rated player on the current roster.
Draft Express has Gordon going No. 7 in next June’s NBA draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford slid Gordon to No. 8 in his updated mock draft Wednesday.
“Gordon isn’t the most-gifted scorer in the draft,” Ford wrote, “but he makes up for it with elite athletic abilities, a motor that doesn’t quit and a disruptive defensive game.”
Not that the NBA is foremost on anyone’s mind at this point. UA coach Sean Miller insists his players aren’t focused that way.
“There’s no player that’s going to come behind the mic and say, ‘The one thing I care about is being an NBA player. If we go 14-15 and I become an NBA player, I’m great.’
“A lot of them feel that way. But on this year’s team at Arizona, we really have a collective group that wants to win and become a part of something that’s bigger than themselves. I also believe this is a group that completely understands that with team success, it’s amazing how individual accolades are able to follow.”
Tonight is a day shy of the one-year anniversary of when Arizona’s season began to really drop off last season. Before a white-out McKale Center crowd on Jan. 24, the Wildcats lost to UCLA 83-74, their second loss in four games after a 14-0 start.
Arizona went on to lose a total of six games in Pac-12 play, finishing in a three-way tie for sixth, but Miller long ago started taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“Last year, there were some players who were able to get away from things,” guard Gabe York said. “Coach said at the beginning of the year that he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Around this time is when the team started to disintegrate … started to part ways. He’s going to be someone who’s going to hold you responsible no matter who you are. He … told everyone that wasn’t going to happen again.”
In a profile of UA guard T.J. McConnell, Sports Illustrated explores the edgy bond he shares with Miller because both are from the Pittsburgh area.
“Who comes from” there? Miller says. “Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Joe Namath, Joe Montana. … You’re not supposed to be a basketball player when you’re from Pittsburgh. No one from Pittsburgh can play! Look at you! You can’t jump! Those basketball stereotypes are loud and clear. You start to play with a chip on your shoulder. I saw that in T.J. right away.”