Player Evaluation: Nick Johnson

Not many players in the country have improved as much as Nick Johnson. What were the good and bad moments? What is the final verdict? Read on for those answers and more.

With Pac-12 play about a week from starting, we will take a look at how Arizona's players have done so far.

It's possible that Nick Johnson has made the one of the biggest jumps in the country from his freshman to sophomore year. Last season, Johnson was not known as a good defender and he is now Arizona's best on the perimeter. In addition, Johnson has become a better point guard when necessary and seems to be making much better decisions.

The Good: Johnson opened the season against Charleston Southern with 12 points, 6 assists, and three rebounds. The all-around performance sets the stage for what is going to come in the next 11 games.

Arizona was much better than Northern Arizona, but Johnson deserves credit for a performance in which he went 3-3 from the field for 10 points and added seven assists and three rebounds while only turning the ball over once. In addition, Johnson's defense, led by four steals, caused NAU's guards to struggle throughout the game as the Wildcats won easily.

Johnson and Arizona go on the road for the first time and he dominates Texas Tech, shooting 7-11 from the field for 18 points. Johnson also does not turn the ball over as Arizona passes its first test with a 28-point win.

Despite turning the ball over six times, Johnson deserves credit for his 23-point game against Southern Miss. He added four steals and four assists to match the fact that he only missed four shots. Arizona went into the half down eight points and if it is not for Johnson's 13 points in that half, the outcome could have been different.

It was no secret that Johnson would be guarding Florida's Kenny Boynton through the game. Afterwards, there was no question that he Johnson had outplayed his opposition, as he went for 15 points, 4 steals, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and only turned the ball over once. Johnson would hold Boynton to 2-10 shooting for five points and three turnovers, thus making his presence known on a national stage.

Johnson did not play well against San Diego State, but his recovery off a slow switch by Brandon Ashley led to him blocking what appeared to be an easy layup. The block kept Arizona undefeated and gave it a win against a team that has been a thorn in its side for the past few years.

The Bad: It may be hard to pick these for a player that has been as consistent as Johnson, but if he deserves credit for what he did against Southern Miss, we do have to point out the fact that he turned the ball over six times. Arizona had 27 as a team, but some of Johnson's passes were just awful against the Golden Eagles.

Johnson could not get it going against East Tennessee State, shooting 2-7 from the field. One of his shots was a highlight reel 360 dunk, but Johnson was never able to build off that.

While Johnson will be remembered for his block against San Diego State, it was his worst game of the season. He shot 3-13 from the field and failed to record an assist the only time this season. Chase Tapley, who Johnson guarded for much of the game, finished with 19 points and besides the blocked shot, you could make an argument that Tapley outplayed Johnson that night.

The Verdict: When we struggle to find the bad parts within 12 games, it is a good sign for a player. We all know that players make jumps from their first to second season, but what Johnson has been able to do is remarkable.

He has become much better at handling the ball and making better decisions not only with his passing, but also on what shots to take.

The most remarkable part of his improvement, however, is his defense. He is absolutely Arizona's best perimeter defender right now and will get the task of guarding the opposition's best perimeter scorer for the rest of the season.

The best aspect of all this for Arizona and the worst for opponents is that Johnson is only a sophomore. He is one of Arizona's best players already, but will continue to get better and his improvement will help Arizona move forward.


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