Johnson Cleared for Exhibition Game

Freshman forward Gary Johnson has been cleared to play in Texas' exhibition game Friday against Xavier, LA., Longhorn basketball coach Rick Barnes announced Tuesday.

Gary Johnson's status for the regular season, however, remains uncertain after he was informed this past summer of a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

"We'll continue to evaluate what we need to evaluate, but this helps us along with that," said Barnes. "I have great confidence in our doctors and the way we've gone about this. We wouldn't put him in a situation that we didn't think he could handle. He's done everything we've asked him to do."

The All-American from Aldine High has been fully participating in preseason practices, Barnes noted.

"I think our practices are more strenuous than anything we do during a game," Barnes said. "From day one, he's done everything that everybody else has done."

Johnson (6-7, 247) was tabbed the top prospect in the Lone Star state by a number of recruiting services. He averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds as a senior.

Johnson is listed in the starting lineup alongside sophomore G/F Damion James, F/C Connor Atchley, sophomore G D.J. Augustin and sophomore G Justin Mason. Sophomore C Dexter Pittman (left foot) is questionable for Friday's exhibition while junior G A.J. Abrams (right toe) and sophomore C Matt Hill (left heel) are out. It was announced Monday that freshman Dogus Balbay (right knee) is out indefinitely following surgery earlier that day.

"We haven't been able to put together our thoughts about what would be the nucleus of our team because of the injuries," Barnes added. "But some good has come from it. Justin Mason has had to play the point a lot against D.J. They just go at each other and knock heads every day. They've made each other better. It's allowed Gary and Damion to play on the perimeter, maybe more so than we thought they would."

The decision about whether Johnson will be allowed to compete in regular season games is yet to be determined. So, how many minutes would provide a proper test for Johnson on Friday?

"I'm not smart enough to think about that," Barnes quipped. "We're going to play the game the way we'd (ordinarily) play it. How many minutes? I have no idea. The referees might decide he's not going to play that long. I don't know how long he's going to play. Last year, we started the season thinking Connor was going to play two or three minutes at a time, and he picked up two quick fouls. I could plan it all I want. I don't control it."

Texas is ranked No. 16 in the preseason USA-Today coaches poll and open the regular season at home against Texas-San Antonio, 7:00 p,m., Nov. 12.

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