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Meet the Warriors: Zane Johnson

Zane Johnson is all about basketball.

When the Hawaii basketball team had a rare day off this week, Johnson’s idea of rest was two hours of solo shooting in an empty gym.

When the Warriors have practice in the afternoons, Johnson will record college basketball games on his television so that he can watch it later at night.

On days when there are no games on television, he’ll watch the coaches’ video of the Warriors practicing.

“That’s what you have to do to get better,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-6 junior guard. “I’ve been around basketball all my life, so if I’m not playing or working out, then I’m watching.”

It is a big reason why Johnson is evolving into an all-around talent, and not just a 3-point specialist. Most notable, he is earning a reputation as a defensive stopper, and is often assigned to defend the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

“I actually like to play defense now,” he said. “It’s pretty fun to stop the other team’s best scorer and to hold him down below his average. That’s what I really worked on this summer – more of it in the weight room, building leg strength.”

At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Johnson said he uses his size to help him defend smaller, quicker guards. In a road victory at Louisiana Tech, Johnson was primarily responsible for limiting 5-11 guard DeAndre Brown to seven points (10 below his average) on 2 of 12 shooting.

“When I’m guarding someone smaller and quicker, I can back off and put my hands up because I’m a lot longer,” he said.

Still, Johnson is best known for his shooting skills, and he leads the Western Athletic Conference with 55 3-pointers, and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 14.1 points per game. He also leads the WAC with a .889 free throw percentage, which is on pace to set a UH season record.

It is a shooting touch he has been trying to perfect since he was a child growing up in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I remember being in the driveway with my grandpa just shooting every day,” he said. “Now, during the summer especially, I get like 500 to 600 shots up … when I miss, I know what’s happening now. I know why, I know how to fix it.”

His shot was good enough to earn him a shot with several Pac-10 programs that recruited him out of high school. He eventually signed with Arizona, and was a part-time starter as a sophomore on a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

But a myriad of coaching changes (five in his two seasons with the Wildcats), prompted Johnson to seek a transfer. He signed with Hawaii after meeting then-assistant coach Eran Ganot.

“I came here and fell in love with Hawaii, it’s a beautiful place and they have great facilities,” Johnson said. “Bob Nash was a great guy, and now with Coach Arnold it couldn’t be better.”

Although Arizona appears to have stabilized its program (the Wildcats are in second place in the Pac-10 right now), Johnson said he will never second-guess his decision.

“Never,” he said. “I’ll never look back and say I wish I stayed. I’m so glad I’m out of that situation … I’m glad to be here.”

Photos by Brandon Flores/www.brandonfloresphotography.com

2 Comments

  1. zane has truly emerged as a leader by example.

  2. Lucky for us he chose Hawaii.

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