When he was sharing a place with T.J. McConnell and manager David Miller last season, Nick Johnson found Kaleb Tarczewski often left his dorm and “pretty much lived with us.”
And, of course, Johnson couldn’t avoid the rest of his Arizona Wildcats teammates the rest of the day, either – whether on the floor, in the weight room or classroom.
So this year, with the help of his girlfriend’s house-finding efforts, Johnson made it official: He arranged to have seven of the Wildcats live in a duplex just north of McKale Center, all but three of those eligible to live off campus (UA freshman players are assigned to dorms).
Johnson, McConnell, Tarczewski and Chris Johnson are in one house. In the other one live Gabe York, Brandon Ashley and transfer Zach Peters.
“I love it,” Nick Johnson said. “It’s great. I thought it would be cool to live with the team. We’re already together all day, every day, anyway.”
Johnson said UA coach Sean Miller supported the idea, with both of them believing the extra closeness could help team chemistry, though naturally there are days when they can get on each other’s nerves.
“Of course,” Johnson said. “We’re like brothers. Brothers always fight. But at the end of the day it’s your brother and that’s who you go to work with.”
Part of the benefit for Johnson is he gets to live with his brother, Chris, who joined the Wildcats over the summer as a walk-on.
The two also spent a night together with their father on a boat off San Diego while going fishing during UA players’ two-week vacation earlier this month.
On that boat, yet another family talent surfaced.
“Chris caught the biggest fish – a 35-pound yellowtail,” Johnson said.
Nick says Chris, who played at Division II Grand Canyon, can also jump as good if not better than he can. But at the same time, Chris is in the same talented group of wing players that includes freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“He has a strong body and he’s athletic and can shoot a little bit,” Johnson said, but later added: “It’s going to be tough: You’ve got Aaron and Rondae at the three and they’re so physically gifted as far as defense and being able to run the floor and stuff – and frankly that’s what we brought them here to do.”
The fishing trip was a blip in Johnson's summer, when he worked camps and on his game, staying in Tucson for both summer semesters.
He said he worked hard on his floaters and other midrange shots, often consulting with new assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, knowing that the Wildcats lost good shooters in Grant Jerrett, Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons from last season's team.
“We definitely lost a lot of shooting last year so we know that coming into the season,” Johnson said. “Myself, Gabe, Jordin (Mayes), T.J. and our new guys definitely know that. We know teams will try to zone us, so we’ll definitely be ready for that and see how it goes.”