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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Catching up with Zane Johnson

UA wing Zane Johnson talks with the media after a 84-71 Arizona win against Utah on March 20 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
UA wing Zane Johnson talks with the media after a 84-71 Arizona win against Utah on March 20 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.

Editor’s Note: Guard Zane Johnson played for two seasons for the UA men’s basketball team before transferring to the University of Hawaii after last spring. Arizona Daily Wildcat senior writer Lance Madden caught up with Johnson to talk about puka shells, the best year of his life and being a Rainbow Warrior.

Daily Wildcat: Aloha! How’s Hawaii?

Zane Johnson: It’s so nice. The beaches, the women — everything about it is cool.

DW: Have you ever been there before?

ZJ: I had been here once before. It’s a really laid-back lifestyle. It’s interesting. Have you been out here?

DW: Not yet. I’m going to come out and stay with you.

ZJ: (Laughs)

DW: Have you hit the beaches yet?

ZJ: Yeah, I go to the beaches all the time. I work out, then I go to the beach.

DW: Are you wearing puka shells yet?

ZJ: Puka shell? What’s that?

DW: Like what (former quarterback) Willie Tuitama wore all the time.

ZJ: Oh, come on, man. No. No way, man. (Laughs) I’d never wear that kind of stuff. Actually, no one wears that stuff out here. People wear flowers in their ears and bracelets. But no necklaces.

DW: OK, now why are you out there?

ZJ: It was the best situation for me with the basketball style and coaches.

DW: Were you looking at any other schools to transfer to?

ZJ: New Mexico and here were the final two schools I was looking to go to. Hawaii coaches are down to earth; they rarely yell. It’s just fun. It’s like last year with coach (Russ) Pennell and coach (Mike) Dunlap.

DW: Why did you decide to transfer?

ZJ: I had so much fun last year. It honestly was probably the best year of my life. I had so much fun. Every day I wish I could be with that exact team for four years. Part of the reason I left was two of my best friends, Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger, had left, too. The only other guys I really hung out with were Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne. The other reason why I left was I didn’t want to be there when coach (Sean) Miller got there and not be his exact player.

DW: So the uncertainty about what was to come with coach Miller in the future was what you wanted to avoid?

ZJ: I just wanted to go somewhere I was really wanted. It’s hard coming back not knowing who is going to play. Even last year, coming back with coach (Lute) Olson, no one knew what it was going to be like. Then after he left, we were all like, “”What’s going to happen now?”” It just turned into a really good situation for me last year. Now, coach Miller is going to bring in all his guys, his players and his system, and that would have been even harder for me to find a spot in that system.

DW: You’ll be sitting out this upcoming season because of NCAA transfer rules. Does it kind of remind you of the beginning of your freshman year before you were pulled out of your redshirt?

ZJ: It’s different because I know I’m not going to play. Then, I was thinking I might play.

DW: What are you going to be working on this upcoming year, individually?

ZJ: Everything off the dribble, footwork, ball handling. Off the court, just getting in the weight room.

DW: How has it been going from your favorite teammates ever to playing with a bunch of guys you don’t know yet?

ZJ: It’s going to be different. I had three NBA guys on my team last year. Here, I probably don’t have any. There’s one guy here that’s really good who reminds me of Nic Wise. His name is Dwain Williams, a transfer from Providence. But I don’t think there will be anything like I experienced last year. Playing with them was just so much fun. Playing here will be fun, but it will be hard to click just like we all did last year.

DW: How is head coach Bob Nash similar or different to the past two coaches you played for?

ZJ: He’s like coach Pennell. He cares about you, he wants you to do good. He’s a good coach who knows what he’s doing, and above all, he’s a great person.

DW: Have you gotten the invite on Facebook: “”Chase Budinger invites you to be a fan of Chase Budinger?””

ZJ: (Laughs) Yeah. I’m a fan.

DW: You know that you’re a Rainbow Warrior now, don’t you?

ZJ: (Laughs) I’d prefer to be just a Warrior.


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