Zach Johnson staying positive

After he tore his ACL during his senior season of high school, current Husky big-man Zach Johnson kept a positive outlook. He expected to redshirt his first season and get strong enough and healthy enough to come on like gangbusters in his second-year at Montlake. The basketball gods had different plans.

"At a spring workout, my knee had been bothering me previously and I told the trainers," Johnson told Dawgman.com. "They said they thought it was scar tissue and to keep playing because I only had like two weeks left until school got out and they would scope it to get the scar tissue out of there, because that's what they thought was bothering me. In the next couple days it just gave out on me in an individual practice."

It turned out that Johnson tore his left ACL and now he faces another year of rehab and another year of sitting on the bench.

"Sometimes it's hard. You can't really stress how it is to a person who's not in my shoes," Johnson said, shaking his head. "You've got to be really mentally strong I guess and sometimes I call my parents for moral support. Sometimes I feel like I need more. It's hard.

"Not playing your senior year of high school, coming in as a freshman and knowing you have to redshirt, you're like ‘ok', because you know you've got a redshirt and then you hurt yourself again when you're looking forward to playing your sophomore year, but you can't. Everyone you've come in with is ahead of you and the freshmen that are playing will be ahead of you next year when I start playing and it's like ‘Do they have faith in me? Where am I at?' It's hard, but you've just got to stay positive somehow."

If he's nothing else, Johnson is the most positive and confident person you may ever meet.

"I will be able to play," Johnson said with sureness. "The questions came about before. ‘Do I think I'll be able to compete? What if I can't compete in practice just to get playing time?'

"My response to the person that asked me that was that I don't see myself not being able to compete against anybody. If you bring somebody in, I don't care if he's eight-feet tall, I'm going to compete against him. I'm a competitor. That's what I do. That's just not an issue to me. If my knees are able to hold me up, I will compete and I will play."

The term 'big man' is an understatement when it comes to Johnson. At 6-8, 275 pounds he's a bruiser who is about as intense as they come. Limiting his ability to play doesn't curb that intense demeanor Johnson brings to the squad.

"I try to stay involved as much as possible," Johnson said. "I'm a big guy so (Jon Brockman), Artem (Wallace) and Joe (Wolfinger) – I try to help them out as much as I can.

"I talk to the guys, some of them are older than me, but I try to give them a little pointer here and there about fouling or ‘keep your head up, keep pushing, keep pushing', because that's what I'm doing. They don't have it as hard as I do, so it's easy for me to push them. I just want to keep them motivated."

In a meeting with head coach Lorenzo Romar and assistant coach Cameron Dollar, Johnson discussed his plans if he never plays ball again and what other sport he may be inclined to play.

"We talked about just me and what have I been thinking," Johnson said noting the coaches were very realistic with him. "They asked me to consider ‘What if basketball is not for me? Have I thought of any alternatives like playing any other sports?', because football might be less-hard on my knees.

"I've actually thought about playing football anyways, because I played it in high school. We talked about that and that's a definite possibility. I'm not saying I'm going to go to a football scholarship from a basketball scholarship, but just playing in general and then he asked ‘What if basketball's not for me?' and, ‘What if I don't make it?'.

"I'm going to try and play and do my part while I'm here. If I don't make it in the league or overseas then I'll go to my backup plan which is whatever I major in, in college."

Johnson underwent surgery last week and will begin the long road back to full-strength, but it is a road he's traveled before and he isn't intimidated at the prospect of another rehab.

"Usually ACL restructuring takes about 9 months, before you can fully go again," Johnson said as if all he was doing was studying for a test. "I will probably start running in six months. When I can start running again I'm going to start running as much as possible to get my weight down and get stronger and get my leg strong. Work hard this spring and summer and come back ready for next year."

Whatever happens, Johnson won't give up on his dream of playing basketball for the Dawgs.

"That's not my M.O.," he said. "I don't quit. That's just plain and simple."

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