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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pro/Con: Was Zane Johnson’s decision to transfer a good one?

    Pro: Better to be a big fish in a little pond

    Lance Madden

    associate sports editor

    Hey, it wouldn’t be Arizona basketball without a coaching change, face stomp, late foul or transfer, right? Drama is what drives the program these days.

    The Wildcats will have their fourth head coach in as many years in the fall, but with just two-fifths of their once-hot 2011 recruiting class. Only center Alex Jacobson and forward Jamelle Horne remain in the upcoming season’s junior class.

    Jerryd Bayless just finished his NBA rookie season with Portland and Laval Lucas-Perry went to Michigan. Zane Johnson will transfer from Arizona after this semester, and after a mandatory redshirt season per NCAA rules, he will be able to play his last two collegiate seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

    As long as Johnson is patient, he’s made a pretty sound decision.

    The Wildcats have lost two players to the NBA in Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, and there is a possibility that Nic Wise could choose to get a fat paycheck in Europe instead of coming back for his senior year.

    Sure, UA head coach Sean Miller is starting to pull together a decent recruiting class for the fall, having already signed four-star recruits Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko and getting a commitment from three-star Bronx baller Kevin Parrom this weekend.

    But each recruit Miller brings in makes Johnson a smaller fish in a bigger pond.

    Hill and Parrom are wings who could have given Johnson a run for his money in terms of playing time. There is also word floating around that Arizona is trying hard (though it’s a long shot) to bring in Lance Stephenson, the nation’s only uncommitted top-15 player outside of No. 1 overall player John Wall.

    Each addition to the team brings partial relief to the Wildcat Nation, but would have made it harder for Johnson to stand out as the 3-point phenom that he is. Some guys just need the spotlight.

    Johnson wasn’t Miller’s recruit, point blank. That makes it 20 times easier for him to leave. He’s not turning his back on Miller, Russ Pennell, Lute Olson or even Kevin O’Neill, who pulled Johnson from his redshirt in January 2008.

    By going to a smaller school, or at least one with less competition for a sharp-shooting forward, Johnson may be able to build on his 4.6 points and 1.8 rebounds during 19.1 minutes per game last season, when he started 13 of Arizona’s 33 games.

    By finding a new home, he may be able to avoid drama.

    Con: Johnson could’ve played on thin upcoming roster

    Bryan Roy

    associate sports editor

    Somebody asked me this the day Zane Johnson transferred:

    “”Why? Did he not want to start next season?””

    Therein lies the issue. Johnson, considered Arizona’s best 3-point shooter with his pure stroke, emerged last season as a crucial piece to the Sweet 16 squad.

    Nobody knew what to expect from the underdeveloped Johnson heading into this season, especially after Kevin O’Neill rarely used the wing in his rotation during the 2007-08 season.

    But the Phoenix native proved to evolve into a big component down the stretch – most notably through his improvements on the defensive end.

    Johnson’s role grew into the fifth starter, splitting time with Jamelle Horne for that spot. Even if Horne got the nod, Johnson knew ex-UA interim head coach Russ Pennell would call to Johnson within the first five minutes of the half.

    So why would he decide to leave it all? With the departures of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and possibly Nic Wise, Johnson’s role looks better and better as the roster slims down.

    UA head coach Sean Miller said Thursday afternoon he might not even have a full roster by November. Miller won’t offer a scholarship to just anyone without measuring up to the “”Arizona good”” standards – which can only mean more playing time for Johnson.

    And that means Miller needs bodies for depth, just as Pennell did. But next season, there won’t be a Big Three to eat up 40 minutes per game.

    Maybe Miller will start freshmen Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko. But they’re still freshmen and recruiting ratings mean nothing once classes begin.

    If Johnson wants to be the Big Man on Campus, it won’t be here or anywhere in the Pac-10. But if he wants to be a quality contributor to a program of rich tradition, why bother going through the hassle of transferring?

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