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A chat with Big Reggie

Frank Haith told me shortly after UM's season ended last month that I was going to love Reggie Johnson, the 6-8, 290-pound center he recruited from the same Winston-Salem neighborhood he grew up in. He said everyone would eventually fall in love Johnson's big personality. After spending 20 minutes this afternoon chatting with big Reggie, I'd say this is another prediction Haith is going to nail.

Reggie_johnsonJohnson, who is scheduled to graduate from Winston-Salem Prep soon and arrive in Miami on June 8th, was about as fun an interview I've had with an athlete in quite some time. He's not shy about much and he's even a big fan of the Eye on The U blog. Johnson, whose coach compares to Clippers forward Elton Brand, told me he is currently working hard to get in shape for his UM arrival. He's come a long way for someone who didn't even start playing basketball until the 10th grade. After doing what he says was the hardest thing he's ever had to do "leave McDonald's alone and leave my mother's fried chicken alone," Johnson has developed into one of the best big young men in the country.

Scout.com rates him a three-star recruit. But he played much better than that. As a senior, he set the state record for rebounds in the state championship, averaged 24.1 points, 17.3 rebounds and 7.1 blocks a game and had an impressive 25-point, 21-rebound effort against Oak Hill Academy, consistently one of the best high school programs in the country. Now, he says, his goal is to take Miami to the next level. As he was busy curling 50-pound weights, I caught up with Reggie Thursday. And this is what he had to say...

Q: You've come a long way from being that big guy who was on the sidelines doing nothing. You remember the old Reggie and what made him become the new Reggie?
A: What made me start playing basketball was the competition. I'm competitive for every competition. I didn't take it very seriously at first. But then I found out I could go to school for free and that got me working hard. My mom. I know her background financially. I knew I could help my mother out and that got me on the ship. It all started when one of my close friends introduced me to Coach [Andre] Gould. He said to me 'God, you aren't playing ball?' And I said 'No sir.' He said 'Come to my school, I'll get you in shape and get you into someone's college for free.' I said, 'I'm there.'

Q: Talk about your visit to Miami back in October before the start of the season. I know Jack McClinton instilled a new work ethic in his teammates, pushed them to the limit. DId you pick up on that?
A: I was very impressed. It wasn't just a visit. It was the first day of actual practice. The first day of practice, it wasn't lazy. They were going at it hard. They were willing to work. Coach was digging at them, telling them what they need to do. I was like 'Yeah. This is what I need right here. A coach that is going to make me work for something, not going to hand me anything, shortcutting me and my career. It was great. They work hard. They work extremely hard and they got me right there.'

Q: How much more excited are you about coming to Miami now that they're coming off a great season?
A: It was a very dramatic turnaround. They finished 12-20 the previous season. When coach Haith and his staff started recruiting me the following week, I started looking at the record they had and the people they had coming in. DeQuan Jones had already committed to Miami. The pieces were coming together. So, it felt great at the time.

Q: I spoke to '09 recruit Donnovan Kirk about this earlier this week and he said seeing Miami have that dramatic turnaround really helped him in choosing UM. Had the Canes not gone 23-11 and made a run to the NCAA Tournament are you a Hurricane right now?
A: I'm a Hurricane. I'm a Hurricane until I die. Actually, it wasn't even a factor. Coach Haith, he's young and upcoming. I believe he knows what it takes to get it done. I think either way I was going to become a Hurricane. And plus, I look at it like this -- me coming in can be a very good contribution to the team, along with DeQuan Jones and Malcolm [Grant] coming in. I believe the best is yet to come for the Hurricanes.

Q: UM had a great season, but so did you. You averaged 24.1 points, 17.3 rebounds and 7.1 blocked shots a game and set a state record for rebounds in winning the state championship. How do you feel the year went?
A: I feel it went great. I got a state championship so I can't complain. That's what I was striving for. Getting MVP was a great feeling. I can't picture it better. Coach tells me rebounding and defense are going to win the game. I'm a person who knows rebounds win the game. So, I go after them. I'm a Ben Wallace type.

Q: Being from North Carolina, I'm sure you get to know a lot of guys going to other ACC schools. Any rivalries we can look forward to?
A: Anytime I'm around Ty Walker (Wake Forest) or CJ Wiiliams (North Carolina State), we just kind of joke around about what who is going to do what next year. It's going to be fun. We had an all-star game not too long ago. Me and CJ Williams just talked about N.C. State and Miami. And we just kicked back and talked about that. If you don't get up for that, something is wrong. You got to love that.

Q: What are your strengths?
A: My post play. My post play alone. I just believe I'm going to be heck down in the paint to guard. I got a counter move for every move. I just believe that I'm going to dazzle.

Q: The Canes are losing Anthony King and Ray Hicks, two veterans in its frontcourt. They'll have Jimmy Graham and Dwayne Collins back. But after that it's all new guys with Julian Gamble, Cyrus McGowan and yourself. How do you see yourself fitting in next season?
A: Coach just told me to come in and bust tail. Coach also told me who knows what can happen. I've never set foot on Miami's campus and actually practiced with them. So, who knows what can happen. They're going to be throwing so many things at me, this play, that play, what kind of set is this? It's all going to depend on how I come down and adjust to it and catch on to it. The post play is a big part of Miami's offense. That's really what got me to come to Miami because I know we're going to play inside-out regardless.

Q: Tell me about the recruiting process with you. VCU was really after you. But you ended up going with coach Haith, who grew up in the same neighborhood as you. How much did that play into you choosing Miami?
A: Coach Anthony Grant. He and I were close. He's a heck of a coach. When I first met with coach Grant, I clicked with him. He was kind of a father figure to me even in a short period of time. He's a great, up-and-coming coach. But with VCU, I just believe coach Grant is such a great coach, he's not going to be there as long. I believe Coach Grant could end up going to some place like Florida. He's a great coach. Coach Haith, I didn't even know he was from the same neighborhood as me until after I committed. That got me even more closer to Coach Haith. I love him. I love coach Haith.

Q: What kind of characteristics make up a guy from Winston-Salem?
A: We're going to work for anything we want and we're going to go through anything. Look at Chris Paul, Josh Howard. Those guys are from Winston-Salem and them guys are making names for themselves in the biggest league. Those guys just work. And that's what we want -- a championship at the end of the day.

Q: I talked to coach at the end of the season and he talked about what he wanted to see out of his guys this offseason. He said the No. 1 thing for you was cutting some weight, get that body in shape. How much weight have you lost and how big are you now?
A: In the state championship game I was around the 300 mark. Now, I'm down to 290, 288. I've just been busting tail to make sure I'm ready for college. I'm working out from 3:05 to 6 p.m. every day, conditioning and then basketball. I'm participating in track too, throwing the discus and the shot put. In college you got to be in shape. So, I'm in the gym everyday. It's a routine I pretty much picked up from when I went on my visit and watched what they did in practice and everything. My coach kind of took note of that and I'm starting to do things they did in practice in too. I'm doing the ladder. We got a strength and conditioning coach here. He's busting my tail too. He's getting my feet right, building stamina. All the pieces are here. I just got to take advantage of it.

Q: When you envision the future of this UM team what do you see? Are you already talking to the younger guys, game-planning what is going to happen?
A: Me, Malcolm and DeQuan have gotten real close. We talk at least once every two weeks. DeQuan is a gym rat also, so I don't bother him too much. Be we talk often. I talk to Malcolm Grant and I welcome him to the family. I just talked to DeQuan like two days ago and Malcolm. We've just been talking about winning the championship, just showing the world Miami is not just a football school. I mean that's what was on my mind. Miami -- that's a football school. Then, DeQuan talked to me and helped recruit me also. I believe in the system. I believe we can show the world Miami is a basketball school as well as a football school.

Comments

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BAM! GO CANES!!!

Manny U have a request from The Truth over at The Space:

Get a write up of Brandon Marti going as he enters Miami this summer. I know you know the soon to be sister in law. It would be nice to give the readers the perspective of following a kid through his transition into big time sports.

Brandon's a great kid and NOT on anyone's radar...but you will ALL see that boy is a BALLER and a "true cane." Whatever that is...

Posted by: The Truth | May 08, 2008 at 02:31 PM

Curling 50lbs weights?? and he weighs 290?? I weigh 170 and can curl 45lbs!!! Lets get Swasey on this guy stat!!!

Great interview Manny.

Welcome to THE U Reggie Johnson.

We need to make UM a multi-sport championship contender in basketball,baseball,and football

LETS GO CANES

thanx for all you do Manny. Kid looks like he'll be a great addition. Can't wait for baseball post-season, fall practice and midnight madness. Things are looking up!!

GO CANES!!

Great Q and A Manny. I love this kid

I believe we've found our Marcus Fortson of the b-ball squad!!! Where can I get my Big Reggie jersey?!

NO MORE BASKETBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry buddy. I'm not 86. I use to post here under "Canester" if you want to look me up.

Posted by: Casual observer | May 06, 2008 at 03:35 PM

Green, thanks for the link.

Posted by: Canester | August 21, 2007 at 02:21 PM

Green wrote ... LMAO, I'm sold.

Posted by: Canester | August 21, 2007 at 03:01 PM
COWARD


Green not to mettle or anything

Posted by: Casual observer | May 05, 2008 at 05:03 PM
BUTT OUT

Green...This blog is not about you or me.

It's about the Canes, nothing but Canes!

GO CANES BASEBALL! See U in Omaha!!!

Green just seems to get out of hand sometimes.

Posted by: Casual observer | May 06, 2008 at 03:31 PM
OUT OF STEP

Great Post Manny. Seems like a good strategy to expand the subject ahead of the football hiatus. Recruiting, like you and Blustein said will continue to be strong....

OK. I'm only going to say this once. Please stop bashing each other on this blog like we are in the third grade.

Green, 86, whoever, I don't care anymore. Just stop making these personal attacks. I'm tired of receiving emails about it. I don't have the time to sit here all day and police what you guys are saying. I'm just going to start deleting messages. If you don't like what is on here in the messages -- don't read what others have to say.

Great interview Manny I have been looking for an interview with Reggie. Dequan helped recruit Reggie???? Thats impressive.

Welcome to DA U Mr Johnson

That was an awsome interview. I can't wait to see these new guys play.

Go Canes!

hey malleable manny navarro, practice what you preach ("If you don't like what is on here in the messages -- don't read what others have to say.") ... deleting disapproving posts ... who controls the content on Miami herald blog? ... let me remind you ... for the time being, you work for Miami herald NOT this guy ...
PUPPET ON A STRING
dwilson@MiamiHerald.com agyllenhaal@MiamiHerald.com
sports@MiamiHerald.com

The future is definitely bright for UM basketball! We are recruiting guys with winning attitudes and guys from basketball hotbeds. Our team should have great depth and athleticism next season, should be a lot of fun! Go Canes!

Q: I spoke to '09 recruit Donnovan Kirk about this earlier this week and he said seeing Miami have that dramatic turnaround really helped him in choosing UM. Had the Canes not gone 23-11 and made a run to the NCAA Tournament are you a Hurricane right now?
A: I'm a Hurricane. I'm a Hurricane until I die. Actually, it wasn't even a factor. Coach Haith, he's young and upcoming. I believe he knows what it takes to get it done. I think either way I was going to become a Hurricane.
------------------------------------------------------------
That's what I like to hear. Just like Forsten. Welcome to the U Big Reg!

Great article Manny.

I'm going to talk to Manny and his editor via email today to try to get them to do something about it ASAP.

Posted by: SOUP | May 02, 2008 at 09:32 AM

So let me get this straight. You get your feelings hurt on a blog, and so you email and tattle on someone who continuously shows you up? That's very hall-pass monitor like! Maybe instead of trying to kiss ace you could just be a man of your word and boycott this blog.

Posted by: 86isacrybaby | May 06, 2008 at 12:28 PM
here kitty, kitty ... here kitty, kitty ...
BOO

P.S. 86isacrybaby = 86 is a tool = green

See I can do it too.

Posted by: Casual observer | May 06, 2008 at 03:31 PM
there's someone in my head but it's not me
-- pink floyd's brain damage

YO....Manny, great interview brotha....thanks.

Someone tell Big Reggie that we're also a baseball school along with football.

Nice to see that Frank Haith can come up to NC and pick up recruits here - this is a basketball crazy state! I am looking for Graham to really shine next year

Why is it that everytime I read green's comments I hear a drum cadence. You know the, dum dum pshhh.

No need to call me a coward, I openly told you who I am. Although to be honest, I am floored that you were able to find my comment from way-back-when. Seriously, do you bookmark everybody's comments and then file them in your computer or something? I don't know if I should be impressed or LOL.

In all seriousness, let's just relax, take a deep breath here, and be Cane fans again. m'kay?

green:

Please seek help. Your mental health is clearly hanging by a very slim thread. I'm not sure what has happened in your life lately that has caused such disruption for you to spend so much time bearing and cultivating a blog grudge, but I hope you can learn to deal with it and move on before you get to the point of hiding in the bushes with a lock of hair and a knife.

Can we please just return this blog to talk about the 'Canes? Honestly, this is pathetic and it really pains me to see other Miami Hurricanes acting this way. Whatever it is, please suck it up and find a healthier place to talk about what is bothering you.

86, you need to shut the F up too. The best revenge is to just be happy. Defending yourself only invites further attacks and brings down the atmosphere of the blog.

We've all been trying to ignore you guys for months, but this is really getting ridiculous.

Manny, thanks for the great coverage which has never previously been available. It is just fantastic for an out of state Cane fan to be able to get truly unique coverage on the Canes so frequently, even during a quiet period such as this.

Florida safety Jamar Hornsby has been released on his own recognizance after turning himself in Friday for using the credit card of a woman killed six months ago in an accident that also killed one of his teammates.

Awesome interview, Manny! I can't wait for Reggie and DeQuan to get here -- they sound like true Canes!

Welcome to the U REGGIE! WELCOME TO THE U!!!! THAT FOOTBALL TRADITION IS GOING TO SPILL INTO BASKETBALL, and you are goint be a big part of it. In 2010 the 'Canes become the first school to BCS, Final Four, CWS in the same year. I'm feelin it! By the by, Manny, scold the 3rd grade nonsense.

hey g8trH8tr, are you a psychiatrist or psychiatric patient?
LATTER

Please seek help. Your mental health is clearly hanging by a very slim thread. I'm not sure what has happened in your life lately that has caused such disruption for you to spend so much time bearing and cultivating a blog grudge, but I hope you can learn to deal with it and move on before you get to the point of hiding in the bushes with a lock of hair and a knife.

Posted by: g8trH8tr | May 09, 2008 at 02:41 PM
you accuse me of what afflicts you ... PROJECTION

it's a matter of principle ... this predator preys on blogs ... not here ... not if I have something to say about it ... you can follow or get out of my way ...
THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET

Manny,

Why dont you close the blog from responses?

its an internet war, which is just plain stupid. what do you guys get from calling each other names of the internet? what is the point?

It's about time!!, that people realized that there are more to the University of Miami than football. Con-grat to the Baseball and Basketball team.

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