Nick Johnson, Wildcats ready for showdown against 5th-ranked Florida

Arizona Sports News online

You knew it was only a matter of time.

Widely considered one of the top prep players in the 2010-11 class, former Las Vegas Findlay Prep and Gilbert Highland High star Nick Johnson has emerged this season

as the player many envisioned when he stepped foot on the University of Arizona campus last fall.

The 6’3 200-pound combo guard is averaging a team-high 13.6 points and leads the 7th-ranked Wildcats in assists. Johnson is shooting nearly 55% from the field and 38% behind the three-point line. His steady play and elevated game has caught the attention of head coach Sean Miller.

“He has improved tremendously from last year,” Miller recently explained. “He had a great off-season and there is no question he is a much better player right now than he was a year ago. It’s not about scoring for him and I think that complements our team very well because he is always just trying to make good plays.”

Rated as the 40th overall prospect and 8th-best shooting guard coming out of high school, Johnson leads a balanced roster filled with a nice blend of savvy veterans like seniors Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, as well as talented freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

“We just go to practice everyday and try to keep getting better,” Johnson told Brad Cesmat Thursday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “We know we have a lot of young players and we have to capitalize on everything we do to get better. We have a lot of freshmen that are playing key minutes for us.”

Johnson, a sophomore, along with those freshmen will need to be at the top of their game when Billy Donovan and the 5th-ranked Florida Gators visit Tucson for a highly anticipated matchup Saturday night on ESPN. This will serve as the first “measuring stick” game for UofA this season.

The Gators defeated Arizona 78-72 in overtime in Gainesville last December.

“We’re real excited,” Johnson explained to Cesmat. “Last year we got a shot at ’em and didn’t quite capitalize on it so we’re really looking forward to it this year.”

Tipoff from McKale Center is set for shortly after 8:00 p.m.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.