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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Johnson pulled out of redshirt year in hometown

    TEMPE – An Arizona freshman from Phoenix played his first collegiate game in his hometown Wednesday against ASU.

    Just it wasn’t the freshman everybody expected.

    And it literally was his first game.

    Guard Jerryd Bayless dressed but remained on the bench with a sprained right knee, but his roommate, forward Zane Johnson, ended his redshirt year when he entered the game and played eight minutes, the most of any reserve.

    “”Zane played OK, he did as well as he should have first game in his hometown on the road in front of a packed house,”” said Kevin O’Neill, Arizona’s interim head coach. “”I thought Zane did more than fine.””

    O’Neill has been considering the move since the middle of December due to Arizona’s lack of depth and since the experience will help the sharp-shooting Johnson down the line.

    Johnson said he’s talked with O’Neill about the move for the last week. Then at a meeting on Wednesday the coach asked his team what they thought of the idea, and they were in approval, according to Johnson, who signed on when O’Neill promised minutes.

    “”It’s tough,”” Johnson said of being taken out of a redshirt. “”But if I’m going to play – he promised I’d play at least 10, 12 minutes a game, so I got that tonight. If it’s like this it’s just getting in the game, getting better, getting experience with the game.””

    This marks the third time in the last four seasons a UA player was taken out of a redshirt year, as center Kirk Walters was three years ago and forward Fendi Onobun two years ago. Besides Walters’ medical redshirt, nobody redshirted last season.

    O’Neill offered a simple explanation for taking Johnson out of the redshirt.

    “”We don’t have enough bodies,”” he said. “”I can’t play (walk-on guards) Lucas Spencer or (David) Bagga, so we ran a little short on bodies. I’m going to play Zane a little bit every game.””

    Bagga saw the first minutes of his career outside of garbage time in Saturday’s 84-74 loss to Oregon when O’Neill wanted to stay small after guard Daniel Dillon picked up three fouls.

    As it is, the perimeter players have been playing heavy minutes without Bayless, as four of them played at least 41 minutes Wednesday against the Sun Devils.

    O’Neill said Johnson made a couple defensive errors in his debut, but his highlight came when he nailed a 3-pointer for the first points of his career with 43 seconds left in the first half to put the Wildcats up 10. That made up for the first shot of his career, a 3-point attempt from the same corner that hit the side of the backboard.

    Johnson’s mother, grandparents and high school coach from Phoenix Thunderbird watched the game, but one thing was missing from debuting in his hometown.

    “”I wish I would have had known a little more in advance so I could have had my family and friends over,”” Johnson said.

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