Justin Johnson (200-PF-1996, college: WKU) is a 26 year old 200cm forward from Kentucky that is playing his fifth professional season and first with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg currently averaging 10,4ppg, 6,5rpg and 1,4apg in the easyCredit BBL and 12,0ppg, 5,8rpg and 2,3apg in the BCL.. He played his first 4 professional seasons in Italy with teams Cagliari Dinamo Academy (Italy-Serie A2), Pistoia Basket 2000 (Italy-Serie A) and Unahotels Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A). He began his basketball career at / Sheldon Clark High School and also played at Perry County Central High School. He then played at Western Kentucky University (NCAA) from 2014-2018 playing a total of 133 NCAA games and averaged in double figures in his last 3 seasons. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball.
Justin for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you? After 4 years in Italy, your playing your 5th professional season in Germany. Was it difficult to make the decision to move? I mean there must have been a reason why you played your first 4 professional seasons in Italy?
Moving from Italy was a tough decision after spending my whole career there so far. I really enjoy Italy on and off the court. The historic sites and the food are a plus! But I was ready for a little change in my career.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? You have played against German teams in the past.
I have visited Germany for pleasure and for basketball games. The basketball is very good. I think Germany as a country is comparable to America in certain ways. I’m looking forward to this new journey.
Leaving Italy and deciding to play for the MHP Riesen is a new step for you. What was the deciding factor for you to choose this team that is making a rebuild after legendary coach John Patrick left.
I know the history of players they have had there, and the success they have had in the past. Coach Josh King called me and we immediately made a connection and I think we can continue something special.
How did the talks go with head coach Josh King. What kind of an impression did he leave you?
As I said before the talks went very well. We both expressed our goals and what we wanted to achieve. I’m looking forward to it.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 200cm forward. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
Draymond Green would be most comparable. We are the exact same size and have a lot of similarities. We each do a few things better than the other. But overal very similar.
You’re a very versatile player that can play many positions. Would you say that versatility is one of your biggest assets?
Yes I take pride in not being one dimensional, and adapting to whatever my team needs.
Your three pointer has been up and down in your career. You shot the ball really well last season in the Fiba Europe Cup. What has been the biggest challenge for you getting a more consistent shot from outside?
I have been a good shooter my whole life. I have been in some offensive systems that fit me better than others. I think that factors a lot and just keeping confidence.
On what area’s of your game are you working on most so you can continue to improve your game?
I continue to work on my shot and putting the ball on the floor everyday.
You played the last two seasons for Unahotels Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A). What did you enjoy most in the 2 years? Possibly the Fiba Europe Cup run?
The city of Reggio Emilia was amazing to live in. Very family friendly and the fans were great. We had a great past season making the finals of Fiba. Teammates were always great there too.
How tough was it getting swept by Milan in the playoffs? You had played them tough shortly before the playoffs losing by 4 points only. What did you learn from this series?
Milan was a great team. We were down some players from injuries and a long season, we seemed to run out of steam. You learn a lot from those series though, makes you want to continue to get better.
In your second professional season you played with Pistoia Basket 2000 (Italy-Serie A) averaging 13.4ppg, 6.9rpg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 70.5%. You needed no adjustment coming from the Serie 2 in Italy. You had 2 great games against Reggio Emilia and Rome. That must of put you on the radar for Emilia, but do you ever wonder what it could have been like playing in Rome for a season?
Rome would be a great city to play in because of all the history. I hope to see start a team again in the future.
What do you remember with your battles with Carl Weatle? He is going into his fourth season there and has made a huge jump in his game.
Carl is a great player. Very good on the defensive end and competes every play!
You played your rookie season with Cagliari Dinamo Academy (Italy-Serie A2) averaging 16.7ppg, 9.2rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 71.3%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I adjusted really easy to be honest. One of my best friends lived with me for the first 3/4 months and helped the adjustment.
You and former Lamar (NCAA) stand out Anthony Miles were a 1-2 punch. How much easier did he help make your rookie season on and off the floor?
He helped me a lot. Being a Vet, showing me the ins and outs of European basketball and help me learn everyday.
You played at Western Kentucky from 2014-2018 playing a total of 133 games. You put up very consistent stats in your last 3 years. How do you feel did your game grow in those years?
I put in a lot of work every summer to get better. Lot of early mornings and late nights in the gym and weight room!
You had many great games in the NCAA but how big was the 86-84 win over rival Eastern Kentucky where you put up 22/11 stats?
Was a great win, considering I’m from Eastern Kentucky. That game ranks up close to one of my favorites.
You went out in style playing a very good 2018 NIT tournament but suffered a tough lost to Utah. What memories do you have of the NIT and what was missing at the end against Utah to pull it out?
We went on a great run. Winning some big games to get to the Final 4 against Utah. They were a great team and it’s just come down to them making 1-2 more shots.
How did head coaches Ray Harper and Rick Stansbury groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Both coaches were different and helped in various ways. Coach Harper helped with the toughness and mental part of the game. Coach Stan’s helped with skill and gave you a lot of confidence to just go play.
Who won a 1-1 in practice you or Dwight Coleby?
Haha. We never played 1-1 but he’s a great friend and great guy!
Who was the toughest player that you ever battled on the court that reached the NBA?
Anthony Davis is probably the best.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
Both are great in their own way. Tough to compare because they play differently. Let them both be great in there own era.
Did you see the sequel to the classic coming to America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
Personal I think it’s okay. Every movie seems to be remade.
Thanks Justin for the chat.