FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Joe Johnson became the fifth National Basketball Association first-round draft choice from Arkansas in the last 10 years when the Boston Celtics made him the 10th pick on Wednesday.
Johnson, a 6-8 forward with guard skills, averaged team highs of 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds as a sophomore. He also added 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals in leading the Razorbacks to a 20-11 finish, second place in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division and into the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time in 15 years. As a freshman, he led the team with 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds, and averaged 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals in helping UA win the SEC Tournament.
For his career, the 2000 SEC Newcomer of the Year and Basketball Times Freshman All-American averaged 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 46.6 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from three-point range and 75.3 percent from the free-throw line. In 30 career conference games, the two-time SEC all-tournament pick averaged 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor, 43.3 percent from three-point and 77.9 percent at the line. Johnson was third-team All-SEC as a freshman, and second-team All-SEC and a National Association of Basketball Coaches District 9 first-team selection as a sophomore.
“Playing at Arkansas has gotten me ready for what I need to do (in the NBA),” Johnson said. “Getting up at 5:30 in the morning for practice has mentally prepared me for what’s about to happen, and Coach (Nolan) Richardson’s system of getting up and down the floor and getting after it on both ends of the floor has helped me out. I’ll take it on to the professional level now.”
“I’m just so very proud of Joe,” Richardson said. “He went in the top 10. When he first decided to go, he was projected in the 15 to 17 range, but he went to the various camps and worked hard, and it paid off. Every NBA scout was impressed with his work ethic and made statements that he worked hard. He will be a good pro. He will find his niche and Boston saw that in him.”
The commentators covering the draft for TNT had positive comments about Johnson.
“He’s the total package because he passes as well as he scores, rebounds and posts up,” Hubie Brown said. “This guy has got the total game.”
Kenny Smith said: “Versatility is his middle name.”
Charles Barkley added: “Any player that plays for Nolan Richardson is going to be tough, No. 1, and is going to play hard for you every night.”
Boston also had the 11th pick and took forward Kedrick Brown of Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) Junior College.
“I’m ecstatic about the 10th and 11th picks, Joe Johnson and Kedrick,” Celtics head coach Jim O’Brien said. “I wanted three-point shooters that are athletic and can handle the basketball. I think people like that are exactly what we needed. With both picks, especially Joe, we wanted people that could shoot the long ball, create their own shot at the end of the shot clock and are willing to pass the basketball and are unselfish players.”
“Joe is a versatile player,” Richardson said. “There are players who can score and then there are players who make others around them better players. Joe makes other people better. He’s a rare commodity.
“I was so proud and happy when I saw Joe’s mother (on TV). I had tears in my eyes when I saw how happy she was.”
The Little Rock native joins Corliss Williamson (13th pick to Sacramento, 1995), Oliver Miller (22nd pick to Phoenix, 1992), Lee Mayberry (23rd pick to Milwaukee, 1992) and Todd Day (eight pick to Milwaukee) as the most recent Razorbacks selected in the NBA’s first round.