Former Hog Johnson Named to USA National Team
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Former Razorback Joe Johnson has been named to the 12-man roster for the USA World Championship Team, announced by USA Basketball Senior National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The USA opens FIBA World Championship preliminary group play on Aug. 19 against Puerto Rico in Sapporo, Japan. Preliminary play continues through Aug. 24, with the U.S. playing a total offive games over the six days. "This is very big," said Johnson. "I am very proud of myself and the other 11 guys that made it. I think we all put a lot of hard work into it and now the real deal is about to start. We’ve got to be prepared to represent our country and hopefully bring home the gold." Joining Johnson, who plays for the Atlanta Hawks, on the team are Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Shane Battier (Houston Rockets), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Antawn Jamison (Washington Wizards), Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings), Chris Paul (New Orleans/ Oklahoma City Hornets) and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat). "This has been a great process, it’s difficult especially when you get down to the end because you get so attached to the last members of the team," said Krzyzewski. "Gilbert (Arenas) and Bruce (Bowen) are every bit a part of this team as the 12 others guys, it’s just we can only go forward with 12. You have to make tough decisions and our group made that decision and we thank both of them. Gilbert unfortunately had an injury and Bruce was right there, he could just of easily be on the team because he did a good job. We appreciate that and now its time to concentrate on the 12 people we do have to go forward and try and win a gold medal. "I think we’re very together," he says. "I think we’re working hard. We’re very unselfish. No one really cares who gets the credit. I think they all have one goal and that is to win. They’ve been easy to coach. I haven’t had to worry about minutes, who’s starting, that type of thing, although I do think we need to get into a little bit better rotation than we had when we were doing a platoon system, but we knew we would do that when we got down to 12. "We now have one phase behind us regarding getting to the final 12 players and it was difficult because we really had a great group of guys," said Colangelo. "Making the selections was challenging because you could build a case for any one of the players to stay or not to stay. So we made the tough decision. We think the decision that was made protects us where we thought we needed some protection, up front. We have versatility in terms of swing people and defenders, which led us to make the final determination regarding Bruce (Bowen). It was very difficult. Bruce is a quality guy, a terrific defender, but it was a numbers game. "We feel very good about where we are," he says. "We’ve had a very successful exhibition run. We had one little scare that was a wake up call and a good one. Other than that I think we have made progress in all of our games. We know a lot more about who we are and what we need to do. We’re very focused, it’s a hard-working group and there’s a lot of good chemistry here and that’s something we sought." The averaged age of the 12 US players selected for the World Championship is 24.5 years old, with 30-year-old Miller listing as the oldest member of the team and 20-year-old Howard the youngest. The players also boast of an average of 4.25 NBA regular seasons of experience. Krzyzewski is serving as head coach of the USA Senior Team and is being assisted by Syracuse University (N.Y.) and Hall of Fame mentor Jim Boeheim, Phoenix Suns head mentor Mike D’Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan. The USA team is scheduled to train Aug. 17 and 18 in Sapporo, Japan, where it will play its preliminary group games of the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Men from Aug. 19-24. Joining the US in preliminary Group D are China (Asia Zone champion and ranked #14), Italy (wild card qualifier and ranked #6), Puerto Rico (wild card qualifier and ranked #11), Senegal (Africa Zone runner-up and ranked #30) and Slovenia (European zone sixth place finisher and ranked #22). Johnson was invited to the trials on March 5. He was a member of the 2000 Under-21 World Championship Qualifying Team that finished 4-1 and won the silver medal (injured and did not play in any games). He was also named to the 1999 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team that participated in the 1999 Nike Hoop Summit Team and defeated a World Select Team, 107-95. Johnson just completed his first season with the Hawks, starting all 82 games and averaging career highs of 20.2 points, 6.5 assists and 40.7 minutes. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, 35.6 percent on threes and a career-best 79.1 percent at the line. He was 18th in the league in scoring, third in minutes played (3,340), sixth in minutes per game, 14th in assists, 16th in field goal attempts and 17th in field goals made. In 2005 for Phoenix, he played in 82 games for the third straight season, and averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists. In 2004, he was ninth in voting for the 2003-04 NBA Most Improved Player Award after averaging 16.7 points (37th in NBA), 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists (29th in NBA) and 1.1 steals while averaging 40.6 minutes (third in NBA). He was one of only 11 NBA players in 2003-04 to average more than 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, and eight of those players were 2004 All-Stars (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, Steve Francis). In 2004, he also led the NBA in minutes played with 3,331 minutes, the third-highest single-season total in Phoenix Suns’ franchise history. In 2003, he averaged 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. In 2002, he was an NBA All-Rookie second-team selection after averaging 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.He was selected by Boston with the 10th pick of the 2001 NBA Draft and was traded to Phoenix on Feb. 20 of his rookie season. He was traded from Phoenix to Atlanta on Aug. 19, 2005. At Arkansas, he was a second-team freshman All-American in 2000 (Basketball Times), a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2000 and a second-team pick in 2001. In his two years with the Razorbacks, he led the team in scoring both seasons. He averaged 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals in 2000; and 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 2001. As a freshman, he helped the Hogs win the SEC Tournament, reach the NCAA Tournament and finish 19-15. As a sophomore, Arkansas was 20-11 and again played in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson averaged 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals for his career.