It worked out fine for Kadeem Jack, so I’m going to make it work for me too.
Jack enrolled midway through the 2010-11 season and red-shirted the rest of the way. Four years later, the starting forward has All-Big Ten potential.
Johnson and Diallo face a similar situation for the 2014-15 season. As partial qualifiers, neither is eligible to play this year, but both are a part of every other facet of the Rutgers basketball program.
“Kadeem was one of the main people that reached out to me,” Diallo said on becoming ineligible as a true freshman. “He gave me a good view of what my situation will be like. I talk to him a lot.
“At first I was disappointed, but after I sat down and talked with some of my teammates who actually experienced the same thing, they told me it’s not such a bad thing. It might end up being a really good thing for me. I’m getting ready for the Big Ten. I’m getting bigger, faster, stronger. It’s an extra year of preparation.”
The 6-foot-10 Diallo comes from Dakar, Senegal but attended high school at the Quality Education Academy. He averaged 13 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as a senior.
“Practice is very competitive,” Diallo said. “It’s a lot of competition and we go very hard. I really believe that I’m going to get better this year to make me even more ready. …It’s a whole different level than high school. I’m pushing it to the extreme, and it is a lot of hard work.”
Johnson projects as wing player at 6-foot-6, and comes off a high-school career with more than 2,000 points at the New Hope Christian Academy.
Like Diallo, Johnson quickly received words of wisdom from Jack about a red-shirt freshman season.
“Of course I was disappointed because I want to play,” Johnson said. “It’s just something that you have to overcome. I’ll be working hard every day anyway. …Me and Kadeem actually had a talk about it. He just told me to work hard no matter what. Things happen and you need to overcome it. It worked out fine for Kadeem.”
The move from 2,000-point scorer to scout team is a humbling one, however.
“It’s a huge adjustment, but I’m willing to do it to help my team win,” Johnson said. “I know I can be a scorer because I’ve always been one. Right now, I’m just working hard in practice to help these guys get ready.”