During the week of practice leading up to the McDonald's High
School All-American game last April, DerMarr Johnson boasted to
the other players about his plans to enter the upcoming NBA
draft. "Go ahead, but my dad's not going to take you," said
guard Mike Dunleavy Jr., the Duke-bound son of the Portland
Trail Blazers' coach. "He doesn't think you play hard enough."
Ultimately Johnson decided to attend college--for a year, at
least--and he should get an education in going all out. Bob
Huggins's Cincinnati teams are perennially among the nation's
leaders in blood, sweat and tears, and the appetite for hard work
has probably increased, what with the Bearcats' having lost in
the second round in the last three NCAA tournaments. Huggins is
cautiously optimistic, however, about this team's prospects.
"We're more talented than we were the last two years, but we're
young, too," he says.
Much of the talent is in the frontcourt, where 6'8" Kenyon Martin
and 6'6" Pete Mickeal, both seniors, will wreak havoc. Martin,
who already holds the school record for blocked shots, seems
especially poised for an All-America-caliber year after leading
the U.S. in scoring at the World University Games this summer.
Most of Huggins's concerns are with the guards. "In the
backcourt we're lining up kids against men," he says. Steve
Logan, a turnover-prone 5'10" sophomore, will be challenged for
the starting point guard spot by another precocious freshman,
6'2" Kenny Satterfield. But having the 6'9" Johnson at shooting
guard will create plenty of matchup problems for foes. "He
shoots three-pointers like he's flicking free throws," says UNLV
assistant coach Max Good, who coached Johnson at Maine Central
Institute. There's little doubt that Johnson is capable of being
the difference between a Final Four appearance and another
second-round exit. But only if he plays hard enough.
COLOR PHOTO: KEVIN MIYAZAKI DerMarr's da man At 6'9", Johnson sees his way clear to sink three-pointers.
POS. HT. CLASS KEY STAT
SF Pete Mickeal 6'6" Sr. 14.9 ppg
PF Jermaine Tate 6'8" Sr. 4.7 rpg
C Kenyon Martin 6'9" Sr. 2.4 bpg
SG DerMarr Johnson 6'9" Fr. 26.1 ppg*
PG Steve Logan 5'10" So. 2.2 apg
1998-99 record: 27-6 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 11
Returning starter *As high school senior