The Canes wrap up their regular season this week with a pair of home games against Georgia Tech (3/6) and Clemson (3/9). With five seniors on the roster, HurricaneSports.com is honoring a different one each day this week leading up to Senior Day on Saturday against Clemson. Today, we chat with senior big man Reggie Johnson.
8.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg
What is your favorite memory or moment as a Hurricane?
"I think going to Duke last year and winning in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which not everyone has an opportunity to do in college basketball. It was special for me and my teammates."
Does being from North Carolina make it extra special when you beat one of the schools from your home state?
"Definitely. If you are from there, then you know all the history and you know the fan bases. It's definitely special to play against those teams and beat them. Growing up, I was a Wake Forest fan. I was five minutes from the university, so I was hanging out with the guys there and always practicing with them. I was a Wake Forest fan at heart. I looked up to Eric Williams and Chris Ellis. Chris Ellis was a guy who I really looked up to and Big E was a guy I thought I could be like once I got on the college level."
Are you happy with how your career at Miami turned out?
"I love it. I scored 1,000 points here. Coming out of high school, I was not supposed to do that, so it was a big achievement for me. I am happy with my career."
What do you think of your legacy at Miami?
"We are not done yet. Hopefully, we can add some more hardware and do some more things from here on out. Right now, I am happy with it, but I think we can do more to make it even better."
What do you think of the future for Miami Basketball?
"I think with Coach L at the helm this program can really take off. We have seen what type of coach he is and how he likes to play. I think us winning this year can really help us in the future. I think positive things will happen here."
What do you hope to do in your future?
"God's plan is God's plan, so I don't know. I definitely want to play pro basketball. That is my ultimate goal and that is what I am going to strive for. After basketball, I see myself working with kids. I am big on with working with kids. I want to help kids reach their goals or help kids who got on the wrong path. I am just big with kids."
Obviously the team is playing very well, but how much of an impact has Coach L had on you and your teammates?
"It is huge. People respect him. He demands respect and he gets respect. He came in and turned us around. Now, we have a chance to cut down nets."
What do you think of the emergence of the basketball program? Does this feel more like a basketball school now that it did when you got here?
"This year, yes. I am from North Carolina, so this is nowhere near a basketball school compared to back home. This is straight football. Where I am from, football has zero existence. We're all about basketball, but when you come down here, everything is about U football. When I first got here, I thought, 'I have to accept that now basketball is on the backburner.' But that changed a lot this year. With the fan support and the excitement around the program, I think this one of those years you can say this is like a North Carolina, a Wake Forest or NC State fan base. The excitement around the program this year has been great."
What is your relationship like with the rest of the team?
"I feel like we are close. I know everyone says that, but that is the truth. We are a close-knit group off the court and we hang out, wrestle with each other and go out to eat together. We are really like brothers. I think this year's group of guys will be lifelong friends. I will always be in contact with all of these guys. I will talk to these guys any chance I get."
What is your relationship like with the coaches?
"We joke on everyone, even Coach L. The assistant coaches will joke on us and I think we have the type of relationship where they can come to us and be honest. I don't want the coaches to lie to us or keep secrets from us. Coach Caputo is a guy I really lean on. He is brutally honest with me and he tells me when I am wrong and when I am right, on and off the court. I think the coaches really care about the players."
What is the highlight of your career?
"Scoring 1,000 points. Like I said, coming out high school, I was not supposed to do that. No one had me coming to the ACC and competing at a high level. Not everyone who comes here scores 1,000, but I did it and that has been the highlight of my career."
What has it been like to help take this program all the way to No. 2 in the rankings?
"It has been a fun ride. I used to love playing on the road. I hated playing at home because the fans would not come and it was like a neutral site for both teams, but now I love playing at home. I feel like our crowd gives us that extra will to win. It has evolved. Even on campus, it is not just U football shirts anymore. I see U basketball shirts, so that makes me smile. I think the fans are excited to see a really good basketball team. As far as the team, it is rewarding to know that we have a chance to do something special. I have never been to the tournament and most of these guys never have. Miami's history of going to the NCAA tournament is not that long, so when people look back at the 2012-13 season, my name is going to be on the roster of a team that went and that's special. I am happy to be on that roster with these guys and it means a lot."
What's your favorite Coach L story?
"I think what Durand said about teaching Coach L how to do the Dougie. I was out there when Durand was teaching him and Coach L was trying to do it. He was making all these faces and looking old with no rhythm. That is probably the funniest memory I have of Coach L, by far.
Basketball has allowed you to travel the world. Could you ever have imagined the game taking you to so many places?
"It has been a fun experience. I think my freshman year we went to the Virgin Islands and I never thought that I would go to a place like the Virgin Islands. Going to Hawai'i this year was big time, too."
What was your recruitment like and how did you decide to attend Miami?
"To be honest, I was not going to come here. I wanted to go to a North Carolina school. I wanted to go to Wake Forest or NC State, but once Skip Prosser passed away, they went a different route and I understood that. NC State recruited me, but Coach Frank Haith came to me and I thought he was real genuine with me. He told me they needed me instead of just wanting me and that spoke volumes to me. I committed to him and I was happy. I remember that Jimmy Graham welcomed me with a big hug when I did that, so I could tell with my visit that this was a family and I would fit right in. It was tough not staying at home, but I grew up a lot just coming here. I wash my own clothes and cook for myself. Coming here was a great decision for me."
Did the fact that Jimmy Graham was from North Carolina help you feel more comfortable about coming to Miami?
"Jimmy is type of guy that is going to persuade you to come here. Jimmy is going to talk to you and show you why this is the best place for you. He'll tell you 'Hey, you need to be here.' Jimmy being from North Carolina really spoke volumes to me, because I saw that someone like me was already doing things here. I didn't know who he was before I visited. But when I first met him, he was just heartwarming and he really helped me want to come here.
After initially committing to Coach Haith and playing for him for a few years, what did you think when Coach L and his staff took over?
"I was one of those guys who were worried. I didn't know what to expect. He came from George Mason, a mid-major, and this is high-level basketball. I didn't know what to expect from them. Even when I first met him, I wasn't sure if things would work. But once we got on the basketball court, I saw how he taught the game. I think Garrius Adams was his first victim. Garrius jogged somewhere and Coach L stopped practice and yelled at Garrius about it. That's when I knew that Coach L was about winning. After that, I knew he was going to have our attention and we just played good basketball ever since."
How have you developed under this coaching staff?
"I think I've developed well. I think the majority of my development was in my sophomore year, but I developed well as far as doing little things right because of this staff. They taught me the importance of the little things like coming in and exercising early before the game. Some of the stuff Coach L makes you do feels like it is fifth grade work, but it's stuff you need that you probably forget about when you get to the college level. It's stuff that definitely makes you better. One guy who I know also benefitted a lot from it was DeQuan Jones."
Beyond basketball, what do you think of your time at Miami?
"It has been fun. I've met a lot of people here. Being from North Carolina, it is a different scene with a different type of people down here, so it was a lot of fun. I like meeting new people. I met Dexter Pittman here and that is my brother now. I am always going to talk to Dexter. I never would have done that had I gone somewhere else."
What was it like to see the students camp out and line up before the Duke game?
"That is when I knew basketball was for real here. It was special to see students line up and support us. That is what we see when we go to Duke or NC State. You never saw that at home. For the students to do that meant a lot to us. We really came out and played for them that night. We gave it our all and it really helped us get that big win."
Do you think Miami basketball will ever win a National Championship?
"Definitely. With the coaches we have here, I don't see why not. I think we can do it this year. This feels like a year we can do it. And I am pretty sure you are going to have better teams than this one in the future, teams that will definitely make some noise. This year is just a stepping stone for Miami. Coach L is trying to get the first ACC championship for us. We'll go to the NCAA tournament and make noise there and who knows what will happen. I am sure other teams here are going to make noise in the future, too."
What does being a Miami Hurricane mean to you?
"It means power. If you throw the 'U' up, everyone knows what you mean. You don't have to say anything, they already know. You just have power. Not every school has a symbol you can just throw up and everybody knows what you are talking about. Just throwing up a 'U' means power."