Joe Johnson reflects on Razorbacks Coach Anderson, recruits

Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson

— Atlanta Hawk Joe Johnson is relaxing in his hometown of Little Rock this June after a busy NBA season. Johnson played at the University of Arkansas before being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2001 and has been selected as an All-Star the last five seasons. On Wednesday, he shared some thoughts on Razorback basketball: past, present and future.

Q) A few weeks ago, you and former Razorback Ronnie Brewer squared off for six games during the Bulls-Hawks series. How was that?

A) I like Brewer. We’re good friends. Anytime you got a guy from the university playing in the NBA I always just try reach out and pick their brains a little bit. We exchanged numbers. It was a good series and I enjoyed it.

Q) You played under Mike Anderson when he was an assistant under Nolan Richardson. How close are you to him?

A) I’ve always tried to stay in contact with those guys like Coach Anderson and [assistant coach] T.J. [Cleveland]. Coach Anderson has meant the world to me. He motivated me on and off the court. One of my toughest times was when I got to college and I didn’t have my ACT scores, I was Prop 48, and I had to stay off campus, study for the ACT and it got to the point where it all kind of got mind-boggling for me. I never wanted to give up, but it was tough for me and I used to express that to Coach Anderson and he do what he could to help me out - conversate, motivate me just to stay on it. He would let me know that you these guys need you out here so you’ve got to make the [qualifying] ACT [score]. If he wasn’t there for those kinds of things, it would be tough.

Q) You and Razorback signee Aaron Ross share a lot. Both of ya’ll stand 6-feet-8 and were smooth forwards with excellent shooting ability while playing at Little Rock high schools. Like you, Ross also enters his first college year needing to make a qualifying ACT score to play. Any specific advice for him?

A) You really have to be self-motivated. You have to really want it and honestly it’s not gonna be easy. Going into that gym, watching those guys work out but you can’t work out with them - it’s gonna be tough. Going to the games but you have to sit in the stands and watch, man, that’s hard. I used to have to go to the HPER gym and work out by myself. I couldn’t even work out at Bud Walton. But it’s all part of growing up. It made me more hungry so when I did hit the court I could hit it full force. I think Aaron Ross can take that same motivation. He’s gotta be “no holds barred” and that’s how I was. I didn’t start playing till January but mentally I took no prisoners. I wanted to beat everybody.

Q) Aaron’s not the only highly ranked local basketball player. Razorback recruit Archie Goodwin, a rising senior at Sylvan Hills High School, is up there, too. What do you know about him?

A) Archie’s gonna be a special player. I had the luxury of playing pickup basketball with him yesterday. I think he’s far ahead of where I was going into the 12th grade, so I was really surprised. I think our games are very similar. He’s long, can handle the basketball. He makes great plays that can’t be taught. I think where he got me at that age is that he’s very athletic. I’ve never been a great athlete; I’ve always known how to score the basketball. Archie can score, he can shoot, he can do everything out there on the court. I don’t really see a weakness, other than getting stronger and defensively. He’s a special player as long as he keeps his head on straight, keeps working hard. The sky’s gonna be the limit.

Q) A month ago, you began a new twitter account. Only May 21, you tweeted “Shout!! to Coach Mike Anderson for the Razorbacks... we back to 40 mins of hell... u betta be in shape.. or u aint gon make it.” What prompted that?

A) Him and Coach Richardson have done so much for me that I’m gonna do whatever I can to repay, to help them out. I just sent out a shout-out on twitter just to let everyone be aware that the Razorbacks are back.

Q) Let’s go back to when you played for Richardson and Anderson. How did they differ?

A) I would say Richardson was probably more old-school, not that that’s a bad thing. Old-school coaches, man, they were at your neck, whether you liked it or you don’t. Richardson doesn’t care how he comes off in his approach to you. He’s gonna come at your the same way he’s gonna come at [another player], and he may hurt your feelings, but he don’t mean no harm.

I think Anderson’s more new-school. He’s more of a player’s coach in that he would know how to talk to you, and he would know how to talk to him. He’s not gonna talk to ya’ll the same way, because he understands some players shut down when you jump on them and get on them tough.

Q) In the last couple years, there’s been a strong effort among Razorback coaches and staff to involve former players more with current players. Will you visit Fayetteville soon?

A) I’m going up there next weekend to just kinda hang out, get a feel for what’s going on, holler at Coach “A”. You know, just chill out. I think it’s gonna be a great time.

Q) Many fans think Anderson and his heralded freshmen will return the Razorbacks to national prominence. What are realistic expectations for the next couple seasons?

A) I have to go up there and see what we really got but I think after a year the university is definitely going to be where it needs to be, and that’s back on a championship-contending level. I think Coach “A” has all the resources to make it happen. I can’t wait, honestly.