Keon Johnson discusses his upcoming freshman season

    by -

    Vols freshman guard Keon Johnson met with the Tennessee media for the first time last week to discuss his upcoming freshman season.

    Johnson discussed his transition to Tennessee from high school, his relationship with fellow five-star freshman guard Jaden Springer, his role on this year’s team, what he’ll bring to the program, and being coached by Rick Barnes.

    Here’s everything Johnson had to say:

    On how prepared he feels:

    “I feel extremely prepared. The coaching staff has done a great job of helping prepare me for the upcoming season and helping me with different tasks to help me get better each and every day.”

    On his biggest adjustment from high school to college:

    “The biggest adjustment for me has been my time management. Being able to balance my time with both ball and school, while being able to get extra shots up in the gym, whether it’s late at night or before practice.”

    Click to order your GBO tristar shirt now & enter Kickoff30 for 30% off!

    On his best position:

    “I feel like I can play the one, the two or the three. I don’t really feel like it matters. I feel like it really depends on the game as to where I would be playing. In terms of where coach wants to put me, I don’t really have a problem with that.”

    On his transition to Rocky Top:

    “Coming into Rocky Top, I feel like it’s been a great experience for me. I feel like with COVID still being around, it’s been a bit of a win/lose situation. On the plus there aren’t too many people around and there aren’t too many distractions, but on the flip side, having fans come out to our games is a huge part of it as well.”

    On what it’s been like being coached by Rick Barnes:

    “It’s been an adjustment, but I was also ready for it as well. I knew coming in from day one, what type of coach he was and just knowing what type of person he is has helped me become better as a player.”

    On if there was one moment where Barnes got after him in practice:

    “It was actually our first summer practice. Coach Barnes went after everyone that day and he finally came around to me, I was just like, ‘Alright, it’s my turn now.'”

    On the aspect of his game that will help the team the most:

    “I feel like my speed is what will help the team the most this year. Me being able to get a rebound and push the ball and me being able to lead the break is what sets me apart.”

    On the biggest difference between what he thought college would be like and what it’s actually been like because of COVID:

    “I feel like the first few months normally would have had a lot more practices and us being around each other a lot more often. But I feel like us as a team with COVID being around, we didn’t get that opportunity to be around each other as much as we normally would.”

    On the preseason rankings:

    “I really haven’t looked that much into rankings and stuff like that. I feel like everyone on the team has a chip on their shoulder, everyone on the team his humble and we’re all ready to work.”

    On how the returning guards have helped him since he got to Tennessee:

    “They’ve helped me in so many ways. All of us look out for each other and we all want the best for each other. That’s really the leadership we have with each other. We all want each other to be the best we can be.”

    On why everyone has a chip on their shoulder:

    “I feel like everyone has that character that we all want to compete, get better each and every day and make names for ourselves. Being at the University of Tennessee is part of it I feel like, in that if you work hard then there’s always a reward that will come from it.”

    On why he is a really good defensive player:

    “I feel like my grit and my will to want to play defense, to want to lock another opponent down and being able to have that type of heart with myself on the defensive side of the ball.”

    On where he’ll be able to make his biggest contribution:

    “I feel like it always starts on the defensive end. If you can defend, then you can find your way onto the court. I don’t think it’s been that much of a struggle for me to find my spots or to find where I fit in. But, it’s also been a learning experience for me knowing that I have to find my strengths and my weaknesses.”

    On the biggest learning moment he’s had so far:

    “Me learning the point guard position. I’ve always been the leader on the team, but I’ve never been the leader on the team from the point guard position trying to construct the offense to get everyone in their spots.”

    On if playing point guard is something he’s always done or something he’s been asked to do since coming to Tennessee:

    “It’s been something I’ve been asked to do since I’ve gotten here, but I haven’t run away from the task. It’s been a great way for me to learn and if that’s what it takes for me to learn, then I’m willing to do that.”

    On what the transition to college has been like:

    “I love the college lifestyle. I think it’s very similar to the lifestyle of being a pro minus the school part. Each and every day is a day for me to learn. I feel like every day I need to come in ready to work and there will be a beneficial outcome in the end.”

    On who he’s learned from the most:

    “Yves Pons.”

    On when playing defense became a priority for him:

    “From a very early age my parents always told me that playing defense is just as much a part of the game as offense is and you have to be able to play both sides. So, having that taught to me at a very early age has led on to me now and has made me the player that I am today.”

    On what its like watching Pons play defense:

    “I love being on the court with him. We’re both gritty on the defensive end and knowing that you have his type of help and athleticism on your back side is very rewarding.”

    On who the hardest player on the team is to guard:

    “For me personally I feel like Santi Vescovi is the hardest guy for me to guard, because I’ve never had a to guard a guy that plays the way that he does. He’s very fundamental and he doesn’t get to outside of himself to get other guys into their spots.”

    On what the best part of his offensive game is:

    “The best part of my offensive game I feel like is my ability to rise up above defenders and shoot a jump shot, as well as my ability to post up smaller defenders on me and go into to get a basket.”

    On how playing point guard has helped him better understand the offense:

    “Playing the point guard position has helped me learn the offense a lot faster and not only learn the offense, but learn multiple spots in the offense, because I know that I’ll be playing more than on position on the floor.”

    On his relationship with Jaden Springer:

    “First off, we’re roommates, so we always look after each other and we both want the best for each other. So, whether we’re in practice going after each other—sometimes we’ll be on opposite sides of each other and we have to guard each other as if we’re not on the same team. At the end of the day though we’re still teammates and we push each other to work harder and to be the best we can be.”

    On if he has a sense of urgency to make the most of his time at Tennessee:

    “It doesn’t really create a sense of urgency for me. I’m here to do one thing and that’s to play basketball as well as get my education and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get the best out of both.”

    On how excited he is to play at Thompson-Boling Arena:

    “I’m very excited to play in Thompson-Boling. Without the fans it’ll be a little bit different than what I’ve seen coming in, but being able to step on the court and play a game of basketball will be a lot of fun, especially playing in TBA.”

    On how he and Springer compete off the court:

    “We play video games every now and then when we get a chance, but that’s all just fun and games.”

    On what video game he and Springer play the most and who wins:

    “We play Madden a lot and he’s beaten me pretty much every time we’ve played.”

    On how Mark Griffin helped him:

    “His contribution to me was just having passion for the game. He was never pushy towards which side I should lean on, but he’s always kept things up front with me. He’s never been on the downside and just his honesty has gone a long way with me and my family.”

    On how improved going against the other talented players on Tennessee’s roster in practice:

    “From the first day that I got here, I feel like I’ve improved a lot. Whether it’s on the defensive end, or just on offense getting my shot to where it’s supposed to be.”

    On if he looks forward to playing in the biggest games on Tennessee’s schedule:

    “I look forward to playing every game. I play every game as if it’s my last. I don’t really look too far ahead in terms of opponents, but on the court, I’ll compete no matter what.”