Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski officially announces his plan’s to retire after the 2021-22 college basketball season.
Johnny Juzang’s impact at UCLA has been immediate since he transferred from Kentucky, giving the Bruins the scorer and dynamic player they had been missing in recent years.
The junior guard is playing his best at just the right time, leading the Bruins into the Final Four for the first time since 2008.
Juzang also has had a much broader impact, even if it’s been unintentional.
Projected to be the first Asian American NBA first-round pick, possibly in the lottery, he’s become an inspiration for younger players at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.
“It’s not something that’s on the top of my mind or really think about. I’m just Johnny,” said Juzang, who’s mother is Vietnamese. “I will get messages or hear stories about how I inspire people, regardless of their heritage. Sometimes there are people of Asian decent. But just being able to inspire people is something that’s touching and inspires me and something I don’t take lightly.”
Juzang’s older brother Christian played at Harvard and led the Saigon Heat to the 2020 championship in the Vietnamese Basketball Association.
Christian was the top pick in the VBA draft, and the younger Juzang looks like he has an even brighter professional future. He has thrived on the court since transferring to Westwood. A former five-star recruit, the 6-foot-6 guard was a role player on a loaded Kentucky team, averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 assists in 28 games as a freshman.
Not long after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season, Juzang announced he was transferring and later picked UCLA to be closer to his family in Tarzana, California.
Juzang missed the first four games of the 2020-21 season with a foot injury, but he is a big reason the Bruins were able to overcome senior Chris Smith’s season-ending knee injury in early January.
Juzang was the Bruins’ leading scorer at 15.5 points per game while shooting 34% from the 3-point arc and seemed to get better as the season progressed. He scored at least 20 points three times in the NCAA Tournament, including 28 against Michigan to clinch a spot in the Final Four.
And he’s done it on an ankle that’s been bothering him for weeks.
“He’s more of a scorer than a shooter and I think that’s what he got labeled at Kentucky,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “I wanted him to get rid of that mindset. We really worked hard on his mid-range and him going to the basket. He’s grown immensely.”
Juzang’s length and skill set have him projected as a possible lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft. It will be history if he is.
Jeremy Lin was a standout at Harvard before his Linsanity days in the NBA and lengthy professional career. Kihei Clark, who’s Filipino American, made one of the biggest plays during Virginia’s run to the 2019 championship and just completed his junior season.
Arizona State’s Remy Martin had a stellar four-year career in the desert and Jordan Clarkson, who is also Filipino American, has a steady NBA career going after playing at Tulsa and Missouri.
Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga was a lottery pick, but he is a native of Japan. Yao Ming never played college basketball, going straight from the Chinese national team to the NBA.
Juzang is a rarity as an Asian American in college basketball with clear NBA potential.
“I think it’ll be a really significant moment and I think the more that it can just be felt where that is normal, I think is what can make it even more significant,” Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, who’s mother is Filipino, said without talking specifically about Juzang. “It doesn’t matter what your race is or what your background is. As long as you can hoop, then people can see you in that way.”
A high draft pick or not, Juzang has been an inspiration for players, particularly young Asian Americans. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have spiked during the pandemic, as has the vitriol on social media and beyond toward people of Asian decent.
Juzang’s success and UCLA’s run into the Final Four has drawn positive reactions from Vietnam and all over the world.
“That’s always a good feeling to hear from people, but I wouldn’t say it’s on the forefront of my mind,” he said.
Maybe not, but it’s helping — at least a little.
Rece Davis talks with Michigan Wolverines’ Isaiah Livers, Jordan Bohannon of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Geo Baker of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights about their college experiences and what they are hoping to accomplish from the #NotNCAAProperty movement.
0:00 Livers, Bohannon and Baker describe what their college experiences have been like throughout their four years at their respective schools.
4:56 They describe the reaction on social media, especially with Livers wearing the shirt that says “Not NCAA Property.”
12:24 Bohannon explains what they hope to accomplish in their upcoming meeting with NCAA president Mark Emmert.
17:00 Livers says the Michigan coaches, including Juwan Howard, have been very supportive of what he is trying to achieve.
21:07 Baker and Livers explain what the impact would be if college athletes are able to make money off their likeness.
Chinese-Canadian NCAA division one basketball prospect Ben Li has received all the Asian-related racist jibes under the sun.
“I’ve heard all the names right when I step onto the court. From the players it’d be all comparisons to any Asian thing – soy sauce, Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, small eyes. Like I’d be shooting free throws and another team would be standing right there saying ‘can you even see the rim?’ and all that,” the 19-year-old Lehigh University, Pennsylvania first-year said.
Born in Toronto to native Chinese parents, Li defied the odds, stereotypes and stigma to make history as the first ethnic-Chinese player to make the All-Canadian game last year. It is but only the beginning of the forward’s mission to reach the NBA and the Chinese national team.
Already touted as the “Chinese Zion Williamson” by adoring media, Li hoped his unconventionally large physical presence on the court would help rid the arena of any prejudices. Otherwise he will have to take into his own hands.
“It’s definitely annoying but over time, their words didn’t matter to me. Most of the time they were trash-talking and all that, they were usually down. So any time they’d say anything, most of the time I don’t say anything back and just point at the scoreboard,” said Li, all 1.98m, 105kg of him.
“It’s actually pretty fun to get to prove people wrong or when they expect me to not really do anything. Then I showcase my game. Sometimes they start talking trash and I’d get my stuff going and dominate the game. That’s pretty fun sometimes.”
Li regularly seeks advice – be it basketball or identity related, or both – from hero-turned-friend Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American who famously graced the NBA with the “Linsanity” era of 2012. That he is now exchanging texts with the man he watched on TV is another “pinch me” moment in his fledgling career so far.
“I definitely want to shout out Jeremy Lin,” said Li, who he featured alongside on a Chinese basketball TV show in 2019.
“This year, he gave me his number and offered me an outlet to ask questions if I’m struggling or need any advice. I look up to him like a bigger bro. That’s kind of surreal to me because he was my role model.”
“When I first met him, I told him I was just trying to get scholarships and play division one basketball so my parents wouldn’t need to pay a cent for me at university. I think that’s where it kicked off because he could relate to me and had to go through a lot of things. He’s even been kind enough to offer to get a workout in together. That’s surreal. That person you watched, that got you into the sport I’m in now. Now I can just to talk to him. It’s just crazy.”
No racial slur is justifiable, but the ignorance may be partly to do with the lack of Asian faces in the game. That applies throughout all age groups, from little leagues to the NBA, where you could count the number of Asian players on your fingers.
Li’s athletic talent had grown to the point that he would need to head south from his native Canada. The path to a division one scholarship offer was meticulously planned and it was only a matter of time before calls came flooding in.
“I had to do what was best for me and expose myself to more schools and coaches. When I got to Virginia, my coach started calling schools in to come watch. Over time, my stock grew and my coach even told me that people were calling asking ‘is the big Asian guy still available? Can I come watch him work out?’” he said.
“I do this for the younger generation looking for knowledge from anyone in my situation. They’ll read this as the next Asian guy who wants to play division one basketball. My goal on top of playing in the NBA and the national team is to inspire the next generation of Asians to break out of their comfort zones.”
“I feel like there’s a stigma that we’re less than other people in a sport just because of the colour of our skin – and I think that’s kind of bulls***. If you just put in the work and screw what other people think, you can go wherever you want to go in your sport. I don’t want other people thinking they can’t get past something if they’re Asian.”
Source: South China Morning Post
What a lot of coaches don’t understand is that we don’t need them..WE CONTROL OUR OWN NARRATIVE!! I’m very thankful that God blessed me to be in the position to do that..We write our own stories..we determine what the next page in life is going to be..why does it always have to be the big universities? – Mikey Williams on his Instagram
All it takes is one person to change history… It changes college sports because you have a young black kid who is at the top of his game who decided to go to a black university. – Carmelo Anthony on prospect of Mikey Williams attending an HBCU
Source: NBC Sports