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Arizona Wildcats

Former UA Wildcat Nick Johnson ‘happy' to land with Houston Rockets

Nick Johnson speaks with reporters in Las Vegas, Nev. (Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- From high school to college, Nick Johnson has always played with a chip on his shoulder. The NBA shouldn't be any different, especially given his second-round status.

The Gilbert native and former UA Wildcat enjoys proving people wrong, and he's done just that in each of the past two weeks, first in Orlando and now in Las Vegas with the Houston Rockets' Summer League team.

"It's going good," he said. "I've been playing pretty well. Obviously, I can play (way better), but it's been a great experience."

Johnson was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, yet when his name was finally announced during the 2014 NBA Draft, 41 names had been called ahead of him.

"It was a tough night on draft night but that just adds fuel to the fire," he said, before adding, "I just don't think that there's seven Pac-12 players better than the Pac-12 Player of the Year and not 41 players better than me in that draft class, but that's what we have the whole career for. It's not where you start, it's where you finish. I'm just going to keep working hard and do what I do."

And there explains the chip on the shoulder.

"Ever since I was in high school, I didn't get the credit that I thought I deserved and I came out and proved it. Same in college. Just got to do it again at the next level," he said.

Thus far Johnson has.

Through the first three preliminary games, Johnson was the third-leading scorer (11.7) on the team shooting 44.8 percent while playing the second-most minutes. This follows his 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game averages in five games in Orlando, including a triple-double against Brooklyn and a left-handed dunk over Detroit's Tim Ohlbrecht, video of which went viral.

"I'm not surprised at all," he said of his play. "I'm very confident in myself.

The Rockets have been so impressed with what they've seen from the 21-year-old that, according to one report, they're expected to sign Johnson to a three-year contract -- rare for a second-round pick.

"I'm happy with where I'm at as far as team. We have the ability to compete for a championship right away. That's always a plus," he said. "We have a great team and I think that I can fit in right away somewhere, just with my defensive ability and just my tough grit that I bring. I think that's something that this team needs a little bit more of. I mean obviously they have players that do that; I'm going to be able to learn from them.

"But I'm excited to be on a winning team, a playoff team right away. It's definitely a good situation for me."

About the Author


School: Syracuse University, '96

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: December 1, 1999

Favorite sports memory: Game 7, 2001 World Series

Least-favorite sports memory: Game 1, 1988 World Series

Favorite all-time athlete(s): Larry Bird, Don Mattingly

Favorite sports movies: Hoosiers, Field of Dreams

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