JOHN JOHNSON READY TO MAKE IMPACT AT PITT
By Lauren Kirschman
Most of the hype surrounding the Pittsburgh recruiting class of 2011 centered on McDonald’s All-American Khem Birch, but on the opening night of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club’s Pro-Am summer league it was John Johnson who stole the show.
Johnson grabbed the attention of the crowd by hitting his first shot of the night—a contested 3-pointer—that caused several onlookers to check their rosters in an attempt to figure out the newcomer’s name.
The interest in the 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard grew as he continually made moves to the basket and finished with ease. By halftime, Johnson had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and was the main topic of conversation among fans.
The point guard might have arrived at Pitt under the radar, but he quickly made a name for himself Monday night.
Although his team eventually lost 69-63, Johnson finished with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting and showed early signs that he could contend for minutes this season.
He said that although it took some time for him to adjust, it felt good playing his first summer league contest.
“I think it’s good publicity to play in front of reporters and Pitt fans,” he said. “I had great teammates. Everybody played defense and everybody rebounded.”
He added that the Pro-Am league is important to help incoming freshman blend with the current members of the team.
“If they see me play well then they’ll have more confidence in me when I’m on the court with them,” he said.
He made an impact on at least one current member of the Panther squad as Lamar Patterson came away impressed with all of the incoming freshmen, but especially Johnson and Birch.
Patterson has spent time helping Johnson and another incoming Pitt freshman, Durand Johnson, find their way around campus.
Johnson said that Patterson and J.J. Moore have assisted the two in navigating Pittsburgh since the freshmen arrived.
But that doesn’t mean Johnson has a handle on his new city quite yet.
“I’ve been lost,” Johnson said with a laugh. “When I first came over, I was lost for hours trying to find the Petersen Center…My phone had no service. I was just walking around for hours.”
As Johnson adjusts to the campus, he’ll find his place on Pitt’s team as well. While he acknowledged that he has plenty to work on before the season begins, he knows he’ll bring energy to the Panthers.
He said he decided to bring that energy to Pitt mainly because of how head coach Jamie Dixon interacted with his players.
“When I first came up here, I met Coach Dixon,” he said. “On the court, he’s a coach. He disciplines. Off the court, he still disciplines but he’s more of a father figure.
“I grew up without a father and I wanted to come to a place where I would have a father figure and somebody to look up to.”