Basketball season has just begun, but accolades are already rolling in for the University of West Florida’s Nate Johnson, recipient of the Gulf South Conference’s Player of the Week award for his performance in the season’s first two games.
Johnson, the first conference player to receive the honor this season, said it’s a product of both his off-season preparation and the group that surrounds him.
“Its a reflection of all the hard work I did during the summer,” Johnson said. “Also my teammates, for finding me in the open spots and always encouraging me and my coaches for encouraging me to take the open shots.”
Hailing from Lincolnshire, Ill., a suburb north of Chicago, Johnson saw minimal playing time on the court last season after transferring from Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Fla. With nine newcomers on the Argos’ squad, however, Johnson said he’s ready to assume a leadership role this season.
“I think last year might have been the best thing that could happen to me,” Johnson said. “We lost all five seniors and those guys taught us a lot on this ball club. I’m ready to embrace this role that I have, and I look forward to see what we can do with this year’s ball club.”
A junior who plays both the guard and forward positions, Johnson began the season with a spectacular performance against Palm Beach Atlantic University, scoring a game-high 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Argos’ 102-91 season-opening victory. Johnson then helped UWF improve its record to 2-0 while recording a double-double against Georgia College and State University with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
His play grabbed the attention of the Gulf South Conference and grabbed the award as well.
Matt Rowley, UWF director of athletic communications, said that Johnson isn’t the only one to benefit from being named Player of the Week.
“Any chance for the UWF basketball program to stand out compared to the peers in the league is always a positive for the program,” Rowley said. “To highlight some of the individual performances reminds folks that this program has a lot of talent and compete with some of the top teams in the conference.”
With more than 20 games left on the schedule, the Argos have a long way to go to reach their team goals of a winning record and reaching post-season play. Still, the individual honor of being named the Gulf South’s Player of the Week to begin the season is something Johnson is quite proud of.
“It definitely feels great,” Johnson said. “I’m glad that we performed well, and that I was able to get that award.”