This past weekend, Iowa played host to Trumaine Johnson, a point guard from the University of San Diego who is searching for a new home. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore from Houston would be required by NCAA rules to sit out a year and would return to the court with two years of eligibility remaining.
Johnson averaged 11.6 points last season, starting 11 of 14 games in which he played. He was suspended for the first eight games of the season and did not play in the first four games after his return.
As a freshman, Johnson started the final 15 games of the season. The Toreros went 12-3 during that stretch, won the West Coast Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Field, where they beat Connecticut.
Hawkeye Nation caught up with Johnson on the phone Tuesday afternoon. The following is a transcript of the interview:
Q: In general, what did you think about your Iowa visit?
Trumaine Johnson: I liked it a lot, actually, I didn't really know too much about Iowa coming in there, but I really liked it once I got on campus and got a feel for everybody that was there. There were a lot of good people there, and everybody I met made me feel real comfortable. It really improved how I felt about Iowa. It kind of changed a lot of things in what I was looking at.
Q: How did Iowa get involved with you?
TJ: Well, I have a friend that was recruiting me out of Texas A&M when I was coming out of high school. I guess he knew the staff at Iowa, and he knew my whole situation. I guess he got in contact with them and told them about me; that I was available. I sent them a release and they gave me a call. It kind of took off from there.
Q: Who was the coach at Texas A&M?
TJ: His name is Al Johnson. He's not there anymore. I'm not sure where he's at now, but he was at Texas A&M when I was coming out of high school.
Q: Who else did you send releases to?
Q: Who else have you visited or spoken with? Who else has shown interest?
TJ: I visited St. Mary's and I really liked them. Before I came to Iowa, I really liked them. I still do. They're at the top of my list with Iowa. Western Kentucky got in contact with me. Memphis did for a little bit; Virginia Commonwealth. There were a lot of DII schools, but I'm not really trying to go the DII route.
Q: What is this process going to be like for you? What type of timeline do you have?
TJ: I wouldn't have to make my decision until the end of the summer, until the next school year starts. So, I have some time to think about it. But I'm trying to make my decision. If I don't set up any other visits by this weekend, then I'm probably going to make my decision by the end of this week.
Q: And, provided you don't visit anywhere else, the decision will come down to Iowa and St. Mary's?
TJ: At this point, yes.
Q: How much does the transferring of credits play and academics play into this decision?
TJ: Well, it plays in a lot. But I figure from talking to everybody at Iowa and the academic people up there, all of my credits should transfer. It's whether my GPA is high enough or not. It should be.
Q: What is your GPA at now?
TJ: Right now, it's only like a 1.97. That was what concerned them (Iowa), whether I would have to go to summer school and raise that. Hopefully, depending on what I end up with finals (at San Diego), I feel like I'm going to do real well on them. I've been talking with my teachers. I should end up right around a 2.23 with the grades I feel like I'm going to get (this semester).
Q: So, would you have to come in and do a summer school thing if Iowa was the one you chose?
TJ: Oh, yeah. That's what I want to do.
Q: There's also a summer league here. Would you consider playing in that?
TJ: Oh yeah, I didn't know that. Oh yeah, I would love to play in that.
Q: I've read some stories about why you're leaving San Diego, but I'd like to hear from you why you're moving on and looking for another school.
TJ: I mean, I love San Diego. I love everybody out there. It's a city that after I get out of school I would like to live in. It was just athletic wise. With the athletic department and everything, I just didn't feel comfortable, relationship wise, personality wise and all of that. It's a great coaching staff. They know basketball. They know how to win. And they know what they're doing. I respected that. I just never really developed a relationship with the head coach (Bill Grier) and the rest of his staff. For me to be a point guard, I need that relationship that is close because they're going to have to have a lot of confidence in me with controlling everything on the court. I need to have confidence in them telling me what to do. We were just never able to develop a relationship. We were never really close at all. That's why I felt I had to transfer.
Q: How do you feel about the staffs at Iowa and St. Mary's?
TJ: Well, they're completely different, the two staffs. The one at St. Mary's is, I wouldn't say young, but it's more of a comfortable feel. I can just relax and be myself around them, talking to them like I would a teammate. That's very comfortable. But Iowa is more of a respectable coach there. I can still be comfortable and be myself, but they demand more respect and that's what I feel I need. I feel like I'm comfortable in a situation like that, too. I like Iowa's staff. I feel they really know what they're doing. We didn't talk too much about basketball and coaching, so I don't really know how they coach. But from talking to some of the players, they really know what they're doing. None of the players had anything bad to say at all. And I asked (the players) a lot of questions about (the coaches).
Q: You were suspended twice last season. Were those the personality conflicts with the coaches? Are you a bad kid? Some people might look at that situation and think that.
TJ: That was one of my main concerns. Once you hear somebody gets suspended, your first thought is, was it drugs? Were they hitting females? Were they robbing and stealing and things like that. It wasn't something like that at all. I'm nowhere close to a bad kid. I may dress in big clothes and wear chains, but I'm not where close to a bad kid at all. The first suspension was because I missed class twice in a week. I was suspended for like eight games for that. That's when I realized that my relationship between myself and the staff was different. I don't know too many coaches that would suspend a player eight games for missing class twice. And then later on in the season when I was suspended again, it was related to problems and conflicts with the coaches.
Q: Was that an on- or off-the court issue?
TJ: No, it was on the court. It was things surrounding the team.
Q: Iowa has offered you a scholarship?
TJ: Yes. They have offered me. I think they still are waiting for the transcripts. I sent them my college transcript. I think they requested my high school transcript. They offered me, but they have to wait for all that to go though that whole process and see what the administration says about that.
Q: Are you leaning one way or the other or would you say St. Mary's and Iowa are even?
TJ: They're pretty even They're neck and neck. No one is ahead of the other one at all.
Q: So, is this going to be a pretty hard decision for you, Trumaine?
TJ: Yeah it is. It's going to be real tough for me just because of the fact that now it's me choosing. Coming out of high school, I felt like it was more of the college choosing me. But now it's me. And it's not just choosing for basketball reasons. It's not just like choosing the scenery, the weather and the environment. Now, it's about the feel I get and if I can develop a relationship with the coaching staff. Everything ties into basketball, but it's more than that to help me make my decision.
Q: Sounds good. Just to be clear on your timeline for a decision, when do you think you'll make a decision?
TJ: If a lot more schools start calling, a few called (on Monday), and I see somewhere I want to visit, it might take some more time. But if everything plays out the way I want it to, I'll probably make my decision by Saturday.