FAST BREAK with Clyde Johnson

ONE OF IDAHO'S TOP players off the bench, Idaho senior forward CLYDE JOHNSON (6-7, 205) gives the Vandals experience, maturity, and 20.6 minutes per game (fifth on the team). Among the team leaders in steals for the second year in a row, inside we talk with Clyde about his growth as a basketball player for the Vandals, and as a student at the University of Idaho.

Below is an exclusive interview that was conducted with University of Idaho senior forward CLYDE JOHNSON a day after he started for the Vandals against Louisiana Tech in Moscow on January 9th - a game the Vandals won 85-78 in the Cowan Spectrum for their first WAC victory of the 2007-08 season. The Vandals, despite their win-loss record, are routinely gaining comments as being significantly improved athletically from last fall, and Clyde's continued development and unselfish attitude (he is one of the first players off the bench, rather than a starter) are key reasons for the team's improvement.

This week the Vandals return home and take on two WAC foes in the Spectrum. Idaho (4-13, 1-5 WAC) first welcomes San Jose State (9-8, 2-3 WAC) Thursday night (7:05pm PST tipoff) to the Cowan Spectrum. The Spartans are coming off an emotional 69-65 home victory over rival Fresno State, and will be ready to go against Idaho.

Then, Saturday night Idaho will battle Hawaii (7-10, 3-2 WAC) in a 7:05pm PST tipoff. Interestingly, Hawaii too is coming off a victory over Fresno State on January 19th on the islands. Hawaii will play at Boise on Thursday, then they head up to Moscow to play the Vandals to close out their swing through the Gem State.

Both games this week will go a long way in defining how the Vandals have progressed in this, the second season under head coach George Pfeifer and the rebuilding effort begun last season.

In the absence of high-scoring Darin Nagle and Trevor Morris, both out with injuries, Clyde Johnson got the start at the #3 slot against Louisiana Tech on January 9th in the Cowan Spectrum. The 6-7 senior from Aurora, Colo, made the most of the opportunity racking up career highs in points (19) and field goals made (eight including three of three three-pointers) and tying career highs in field goal attempts (10) and three-point field goals made (three) in a season-high 33 minutes of action.

Third on team with 40.6% from three-point range.
"I'm feeling good," Johnson said after his big game. "I told Trevor and Nagle since they were out I was going to make up for their lost buckets…The bucket felt big. I was making off-balance shots. I was making everything; so it was a good game.

"Last year I was starting a lot of games; so now I'm coming off the bench and I'm like a glue guy. I'm trying to give everybody energy when I come in. Today I started; so I started the game giving everybody energy, trying to keep everybody pumped up. That's my role."

Johnson also made an enormous play defensively - blocking a La Tech layup attempt. "I just go for contesting the shot. I have to contest shots," he said. "I don't want them to score. If they score they can come up - they could catch up with us - so if I block shots that helps us win. That's just an instinct…That was big. That was a layup that could have given them momentum; so if you stop them from getting momentum it gives us momentum, and we come down and do what we have to do."

Besides his big game last night, Johnson has been making it "big" off the court in the classrooms at the University of Idaho. After transferring in from Northeastern Junior College with a grade point average of approximately 2.0, Johnson is on track to become the first member of his family to earn a Bachelor's degree, and if he hits the books hard enough this semester he has a chance to get it with a GPA of 3.0 or above.

Second on team with 13 steals this season.
We asked Johnson about academics, specifically about being the first in his family to achieve a university degree. "My mom got an associate's degree," he said, "but I'm going to be the first with a bachelor's. My brother didn't go to college. My little sister's not in college. They both work."

How does he feel about boosting the GPA? "That's good, you know what I'm saying? I feel good about myself, because I've always been a good student, but I always just did enough to get by. Now I have an opportunity to graduate, get my bachelor's and also graduate with a 3.0 or above if I finish my last classes with A's."

What was the key to the turnaround? "It's just my attitude about it (academics)," he said. "Nobody really likes school, but you have to do it. In my situation I have to do it. I play basketball. We're forced to go to study hours; so why do it and not pass? I just do my best at everything."

Johnson said he is majoring in general studies, but "I have an emphasis on psychology. I have a lot of psychology classes." Asked what he'd like to do with his degree, Johnson said "I'd be a coach if possible."

Asked if he felt you need the extra psychology course load to prepare to be a coach, Johnson didn't hesitate. "Yeah, you do" he said with a smile and a laugh.

Fifth on team with 20.6 minutes per game. Second fewest turnovers with just 9 on the year.

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