UA working hard to land Phoenix guard

2010-07-26T00:00:00Z 2010-07-26T00:23:56Z UA working hard to land Phoenix guardBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 26, 2010 12:00 am  • 

LAS VEGAS - Phoenix guard Nick Johnson will take the final weekend of the July recruiting period off, and maybe it's just as well.

It's not like he needs any more exposure.

A Top 50 shooting guard now playing at Nevada's Findlay Prep, attracting heavy interest from Arizona and a number of other elite schools, Johnson is opting to deep-sea fish with his father off Los Angeles rather than play a tournament in his hometown.

It will give him time to breathe. Like a lot of high school seniors-to-be, Johnson is just starting to heavily focus on his college choices.

"I'm trying to narrow my list as we speak," Johnson said. "I'm still not there. But it's on my mind every day. School starts for me in September, and as that approaches I want to have a list of eight or five or three to go on some official visits."

One of those schools will likely be Arizona, Johnson said. He simply can't ignore the Wildcats.

Having been recruited by Arizona since eighth grade, when then-assistant Josh Pastner quickly jumped on him, Johnson has visited McKale Center several times and once played in the now-defunct Arizona Cactus Classic.

Pastner, now the head coach at Memphis, began pursuing Johnson at about the same time that Johnson was playing travel-team ball for Russ Pennell, who became Arizona's interim head coach in 2008-09. So even Pennell, who never fully recruited for Arizona because he knew he would leave after that season, made sure to renew that relationship.

"He expressed some interest there," Johnson said.

Then, in came Sean Miller in April 2009, and Johnson hasn't stopped hearing about the Wildcats since.

"They've been on me the hardest," Johnson said. Miller "did a great job at Xavier. He's one of the good young coaches in the country and he's proven himself. … And there's a great point guard tradition, with Mike Bibby and Gilbert Arenas. That's definitely a plus."

Miller can't discuss unsigned recruits under NCAA rules, but his actions at the Adidas Super 64 and Fab 48 tournaments this weekend indicated Johnson is a top priority. Miller watched every one of Johnson's games, as did at least one other UA assistant coach.

Arizona's other top priority in the class of 2011 - surprise - is yet another name that Johnson just can't stay away from: Jahii Carson of Mesa High.

Carson, who has known Johnson since the two teamed up as 8-year-olds, is also attracting Miller's full attention.

UA could take both players - since Carson is a point guard and Johnson is primarily a shooting guard - giving the Cats an all-Arizona backcourt.

But it is far from becoming reality. Both players have their own agendas and school lists, so an intersection could become unlikely.

"I mean, we giggled about it a few times but I don't know," Johnson said. "We'd really have to sit down and talk and already I know I'm trying to narrow my schools and I think he is too. So I don't know."

For Carson, the summer saw him attract growing interest after he decommitted from Oregon State, and he said he'd like to begin narrowing the list next month.

For Johnson, it's been about the recruitment but also the experience.

He spent last year at Findlay playing with Top 10 point guard Cory Joseph - a Texas Longhorns commit - and working on his defense in the high-profile program outside Las Vegas.

And now Johnson is surrounded on the Drew Gooden/Oakland Soldiers with a number of Top 50 prospects, including forward Brandon Ashley, guard Josiah Turner, guard Jabari Brown and forward Kyle Wiltjer.

Johnson can score himself or dish off to any number of options.

"It's pretty easy," he said.

"Great players make other players better and we've got a lot of good players," Johnson added. "They can finish their shots, so it makes it that easier for me."

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