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    Then & Now: Jamar Johnson

    Then & Now: Jamar Johnson

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy Jamar Johnson)

    Jamar%20Johnson%20Shot.jpg

    Jamar Johnson played at Nebraska

    from 1992-1994, and was the starting point-guard on

    three NCAA Tournament teams. Individually, Johnson

    finished his Nebraska career in the top ten of several

    categories, including assists, three-point field goals

    made, and free-throw percentage.

    Johnson recently joined HHC for

    this Sunday’s version of “Then & Now." 

    HHC: Hey JJ, welcome

    to Husker Hoops Central, and thanks for taking the time

    to chat with us.

    JJ: No problem, it’s

    a pleasure for me to do this.

    HHC: You are one of the most heralded

    recruits in Nebraska basketball history, as you came to

    NU after finishing runner up for Mr. Basketball in the

    state of Indiana to former Indiana Hoosier star Damon

    Bailey. What brought you clear to Nebraska from “God’s

    Country?”

    JJ: You know, at the

    time, I had a really good relationship with one of the

    assistant coaches, Len Mitchem. He was from South Bend,

    Indiana, so basically my hometown. So I knew that if I

    came to Nebraska, I would have a good opportunity to

    play early on. Coach Nee and I also had a good

    relationship, and still do to this day, although we

    don’t talk as much as we used to. But, I’ll still talk

    to him every now and again, and he sure was one of a

    kind, what can I say; He was a New Yorker, man. (Laughs)

    HHC: We love that guy. So tell us, is high

    school basketball really as big in the state of Indiana

    as Hoosiers portrays it? 

    JJ: When I was in

    high school, it definitely was. But now, they went to a

    different class system, and I think that it kind of took

    some of the Hoosier hysteria away from Indiana

    basketball. So, from talking to people back home, it’s

    not the same as it was when I was growing up.

    HHC: Your first season at Nebraska was

    during that amazing run in 1990-1991, but you took a

    redshirt. Was it difficult having to sit and watch that

    year, or did you take it as more of a learning

    experience and a chance to just sit back and enjoy the

    ride like the rest of us?

    JJ: Both, actually,

    because as a player, it’s always difficult when you have

    to sit out and watch. You want to be in there and be a

    part of the team and play, and do all the things

    everybody else is doing. Not only that, but it was the

    best year the University has ever had, team wise, in

    basketball. I mean, talk about pure talent, you had Beau

    Reid, Rich King, Tony Farmer, Cliff Scales, Keith Moody,

    Carl Hayes, Dapreis Owens… Those guys took a beating for

    like three, four, five years, and that year was my first

    on campus, and those guys were just flat out tired of

    losing. And for me, coming from Indiana basketball, that

    was exactly the attitude that I was accustomed to be

    being around, so it was a great experience for me.

    I think that as a freshman, it’s

    always important to have good seniors, because they set

    the tone as far as leadership goes. I just thought that

    Beau Reid’s toughness, along with Scales and King, were

    just great - they were ballplayers that physically had

    it all, but also mentally were totally there.

    HHC: Your first

    season on the court at Nebraska was 1991-1992, and you

    guys won 19 games and made a second straight NCAA

    tournament. But, the most memorable part of that year

    was “the shot.” Walk us through the buzzer beater you

    hit to beat then #3 Kansas in the overtime game in

    Lincoln, which might go down as the biggest shot in

    Nebraska basketball history.

    JJ: You know, what

    can I say about it…It is not only the biggest shot in

    Nebraska history, but probably the biggest shot in my

    history, too. It’s definitely the shot as a kid, in the

    park or driveway, you dream of, with doing the

    countdown…It was just the dream shot.

    The thing about it I remember the

    most, and that people don’t realize, is that that whole

    play was a broken down play. The play was actually

    designed for Eric Piatkowski, but I think everybody in

    the Devaney Center and on the Kansas bench knew where

    the ball was going. So, I saw a seam, and saw an opening

    in the corner, and I broke for it, and Carl Hayes threw

    me the ball, and I just let it go.

    HHC: Did you know it

    was in?

    JJ: You know what,

    when I released it, it felt good. I just remember

    getting off a real jump shot, and everybody thought that

    I just threw it up there, but when you go back, as I

    have many times, (laughs) it was a real jump shot. I

    think there was .7 seconds on the clock, and it was just

    an awesome shot.

    Every time I talk about that shot,

    I remind myself of this, too, and too mention it. But,

    there was a guy years ago that sent me a picture of that

    shot, which you have here on my profile. It’s just an

    amazing, amazing picture. At the time I got it, I was

    playing with the Omaha Racers, and the guy actually came

    up and introduced himself to me and told me he sent me

    that picture. And, I didn’t have time to talk to him, as

    I had to get on the bus, but every time I talk about the

    shot, I have to thank him.

    And, to this day, I want to meet

    him again, and I’m hoping that someday we’ll have the

    opportunity to meet each other, and talk about the

    picture and the good old days. But, that’s a thank you

    to him.

    HHC: Do a lot of

    people still ask you about “the shot” to this day?

    JJ: Every time I’m in Nebraska, I hear

    about it. My last visit was four or five months ago, and

    I was at the airport waiting for my luggage. A gentleman

    walked up and asked if I was Jamar, and said, “I

    remember that shot that you hit against Kansas.” So,

    that is definitely what I’m known for in the state of

    Nebraska.

    HHC: 1992-1993 saw

    you guys make the NCAA Tournament again, although things

    ended on a sour note against New Mexico State. Before we

    talk about that game, we’d like to reminisce with you

    about the big road win that season at Missouri, which

    ended a six game losing streak in Columbia for Danny

    Nee. With 5 seconds left, you stole an inbounds pass and

    ended up getting fouled, before hitting the game winning

    free throw with 2 seconds left. Tell us how that felt,

    and how does it rank compared to the Kansas shot the

    previous year?

    JJ: It doesn’t rank

    up there with the Kansas shot, but again, that was

    another big win for us as a team, because it’d been a

    long time, as you said, since we went down there and

    won. So, it was a huge win for us, and a great

    confidence builder, as we knew that if we could play in

    Missouri and win, we could go anywhere in the Big 8 and

    win, or anywhere in the country, for that matter. So it

    was a huge confidence win for us.

    HHC: And the New Mexico State game…what

    the heck happened?

    JJ: I think one of

    the things that used to happen with our teams is that at

    the end of the year, we would just kind of have melt

    downs. It would be the time of the year where the other

    parts of the student body were going on spring break,

    and we would be going through a season of pounding out

    and trying to play ball, school, etc. I think at the

    end, it just wore on us, because we always had teams

    that were really good, but I felt like there were times

    and years where we should have gone a little further

    than we did.

    HHC: Your senior season of 1993-1994 saw

    yet another NCAA Tournament appearance, as you guys won

    20 games and played against Penn. Talk about that season

    and what you remember?

    JJ: Well, your senior

    season always has some good highlights. But, what I

    remember most is coming together at the end of the year

    and in the Big 8 tournament and just really making a run

    for the NCAA tournament. Those were just such fun times.

     

    As a player, and as myself looking

    back, the games and all of that stuff were good, but the

    best thing about your senior year is the stuff you

    remember about your teammates and things off the court,

    such as things in the locker room. As a player, that’s

    probably what I miss most.

    HHC: How many of those NCAA Tournament

    losses would you say that you guys lost to a better team

    than you?

    JJ: I don’t think in

    any of those games, we ever lost to a team that was

    better than us. I think we always beat ourselves, and we

    kind of just melted down. Maybe there was a little bit

    of complacency that took place in some of those seasons,

    but I don’t think there was ever a time that we played

    against somebody flat out better than us.

    That will probably always be the

    let down, that even though we made the tourney, we never

    won a game.

    HHC: Before we get to today, we have to

    get a couple funny Danny Nee stories out of you, since

    we ask every player who played for him to add to the

    never-ending list. What do you have for us?

    JJ: (Laughs) Oh, man, lets see… I’ll give

    you a couple, with the first being a little more

    serious.

    I think it was my junior year, and

    we were playing Iowa State in Ames, and it was the year

    we had a lot of chatter going on about the fab four of

    Strickland, Badgett, Boone, and Woolridge. And, I think

    coach Nee was getting a lot of heat because of how he

    was or wasn’t playing them, and you’ve got other people

    outside getting involved. So, I remember him making a

    point against ISU down in Ames, we were playing and we

    were pretty much in the game, but then he put the

    freshman in. And, it was kind of like that “now I’m

    going to baptize you in the fire” type of thing.

    Gosh, those guys kind of got out

    there, and being young and inexperienced, just melted

    down and fell apart. And unfortunately, he put the

    starters back in and we were able to recoup, but we

    weren’t able to come out with a “W.”

    Now, I don’t think it was his

    intent to lose, but did he make a point? Yes. He went

    into the locker room and I remember it being dead

    silent, and I think everybody, including the freshman,

    understood what he was saying, and I don’t think he said

    a word.

    The other story is pure comical.

    (Laughs) I think it was my sophomore year against

    Michigan State, and this was kind of my introduction

    into what Nee was going to be like the next three years.

    But, I remember at halftime against Michigan State, we

    were getting it handed to us bad. And, man, I never saw

    any man’s face get so red or so upset without having a

    heart attack, stroke, or any other medical

    complications. (Laughs) I was flat out frightened and

    scared, and the thing about it was that Pike, Bruce, and

    Dapreis never warned me. (Laughs)

    So when that happened, I was just

    terrified man. I was more afraid of him than I was of

    going out and playing. I was like, “Hey, if we don’t win

    this game, I don’t know what this guy is going to do.”

    (Laughs)

    HHC: That’s hilarious. Hey, where is Jamar

    Johnson these days, and what have you been up to since

    1994?

    JJ: Oh man… Well, I

    played in a few exhibition games for the Racers right

    after I finished, but they wanted me to go on IR for a

    couple of years without getting paid, so that didn’t

    last long. I came back to Lincoln and worked as an

    administrative assistant from 1995-1996, so I was around

    when those guys won the NIT, which was awesome.

    After that, I worked with West

    Corporation in Omaha as a compensation analyst. And, I

    enjoyed it because I love working with people. I’m

    always trying to be the best teammate that I can

    continue to be.

    And today, Jamar Johnson is working

    in Sports HR out in Phoenix, with my own business. We

    work with professional athletes doing human resource and

    management. Pretty much, I’ve worked in the human

    resource field my entire working career.

    HHC: Are you cool with taking some reader

    e-mails at

    [email protected] ?

    JJ: Yeah definitely

    man, I always enjoy talking about the glory days of my

    Husker years.  

    HHC: Thanks a lot for

    joining us. It’s been a pleasure talking.

    JJ: No problem, and

    hey wait, I want to say one more thing. Everyday since

    Erick Strickland called me and let me know about this

    site, I hit the site everyday, man. I just want to thank

    you for giving former players like myself the chance to

    now actually follow the program, and get real in depth

    knowledge of what’s going on with the program. That’s

    always been important to a lot of us, and now we have

    the means to be able to do that, so I just want to say

    thank you for doing this and what you do with Husker

    Hoops Central, and to everybody that’s involved with it,

    from Beau, Bruce, Cary, Grant, Darren, and everyone

    else. Thank you.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">



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