Dec. 24, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
The first two years of Nate Johnson’s college career were spent at the junior college level fine-tuning his skills and traveling long hours on buses to and from games, wondering if he would ever get the chance to play at the Division 1 level. With one pair of shoes, limited practice gear, and only one uniform to carry him through the entire season, Johnson learned quickly that you can’t take things for granted at the JUCO level.
Johnson has stopped wondering about playing on the Division I level and is prospering as the Seminoles’ starting point guard this season.
Johnson has had an immediate impact on a Florida State basketball team under new head coach Leonard Hamilton.
So far on the young season, Johnson is averaging 5.0 points and 4.5 assists a game as a starter in the Seminoles’ first eight games of the season. He recorded his first double-double of 10 points and 10 assists as Florida State defeated Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The new look Seminoles have gotten out to a quick start at 6-2 and are playing with an extreme amount of confidence. A great deal of that confidence has come from the leadership role that Johnson has displayed as the Seminoles’ floor general.
Johnson arrived in Tallahassee having to replace some mighty big shoes – namely those of the all-time assists leader in Florida State basketball history — Delvon Arrington. Ironically, both players wore the same No. 10, but Johnson feels no pressure coming in and leading the Seminoles to greatness.
“Delvon Arrington was here for five years and he played his game,” said Johnson. “I am here just trying to be myself and to play my own game. I want to come in and be the best player I can be to help this team be victorious and get back to its winning ways.”
In his first season, Johnson has strived to become a better leader and player on the court for the Seminoles. With a young squad, he knows the importance of getting everyone on the team involved in the system immediately. By constantly pushing himself and encouraging his teammates in practice day after day, Johnson hopes to once again establish Florida State as a basketball powerhouse in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It is so important for each and every one of us to come out everyday and give 110 percent,” said Johnson. “I want to be there for my teammates both on and off the court like I know they will be there for me. It is so crucial that we all work hard to turn around this whole thing at FSU and get it back on the map as a basketball school.”
After being sought after by such schools as Creighton, Minnesota, Long Beach State and Western Kentucky, Johnson felt he would fit in best with what Florida State had to offer both athletically and academically. Also, it did not hurt that the Seminoles just so happen to play in one of the most prestigious basketball conferences in the nation in the ACC. But the ultimate factor that lured Johnson to FSU was head coach Leonard Hamilton.
“FSU was nowhere in my mind until Coach Ham got the job,” said Johnson. “After he was named coach, he called and talked to me and from there everything fell into place. I knew I would have no problems calling Tallahassee home for a few years.
“You don’t get those opportunities all the time,” said Johnson, “this is a great chance for me to come in and do something special.”
As a friend to everyone on the team, Johnson and fellow junior college transfer Tim Pickett, get along great both on and off the court reflecting on the past.
“We laugh for hours, trading stories from our days at the JUCO level,” said Johnson. “It’s a lot of fun hearing what he [Tim] went through during his days down in Daytona Beach and comparing that to what I went through in Moberly.”
One of the biggest things that Johnson would like to accomplish by seasons end is team unity.
A big admirer of his parents, Johnson credits his mom and dad for helping him become who he is today.
“My mother and father have not only been supportive parents in all my decisions,” said Johnson, “but I also consider both of them as my best friends. They are a big reason for who I have become today.”
Johnson appreciates his parents for always being there for him and leading him in the right directions. One of the biggest lessons he learned from them is that patience will lead to bigger and better things. He recognizes the fact that his patience has brought him to Florida State and his role as the starting point guard on this year’s team.
Johnson is a leader who continues to work hard and continues do what’s right for the team, but not afraid to speak his mind when needed. His leadership so far this season has helped jump start the Seminoles to their best start since the 1997-98 season when they won eight of their first ten games. With the heart of the ACC schedule lurking in the near future and a possible showdown with highly ranked ranked Arizona Wildcats in late December, the Seminoles are looking for that strong team camaraderie to get them over the top in close game down the stretch. And with Johnson at the helm, good things will only continue for the Florida State men’s basketball team in the future.
By Jason Leturmy
Sports Information Student Assistant