After appearing in Pitt's two exhibition games, sophomore guard John Johnson sat out Monday night's game against Mount St. Mary's. Initially, I didn't think much of it since he could have simply been resting a minor injury or just not feeling all that well. A follower on Twitter that was near the Pitt bench noted that he didn't look all that well and, so there you have it.
But that's apparently not the entire story
Credit to Chas over at Pitt Blather who linked to the original story by the Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo. Johnson apparently took to the worst possible place to vent his frustrations - the Twittersphere:
Minutes after coach Jamie Dixon said in his postgame news conference that Johnson was sick and that was the reason he didn’t play in Pitt’s season-opening win versus Mount St. Mary’s, Johnson gets on Twitter and tells the world – or more exactly his 2,183 followers – that "I’m not hurt, I’m not sick."
Then there was this:
Friend: "Yo bro, you didn’t play?"
Johnson: nah cuz, smh (shaking my head)
On Wednesday, Johnson sent out some cryptic messages. "Basketball is more political than the election."
Here’s another: "Hard work doesn’t always pay off."
First, I've said it over and over - it boggles the mind that schools allow athletes to tweet. We're not talking about responsible adults - we're talking about kids. And while they may technically be adults by the letter of the law, they're still pretty raw. I definitely can't say I was all that mature when I was still in college and I'm guessing it's the same for mostly everybody. To be honest, those kids have to be coached quite a bit on the dangers of tweeting nonsensical rants because I'm surprised we don't hear about more blow-ups. Coaches that take hard stances on their athletes being involved in social media will probably suffer a bit when it comes to recruiting, but I expect that day is coming.
Onto Johnson, though. It's a bit surprising that he'd be so disappointed already. I get that he appears to have been surpassed by James Robinson, Trey Zeigler (I'll get to him in a bit) and even Cameron Wright on the depth chart, but he had plenty of playing opportunities last season as a true freshman averaging about 15 minutes a game. It should also be noted that he received those minutes despite not producing a ton. He doesn't rebound well, which, as a guard for Pitt is pretty essential. And he was also a spotty shooter and also had nearly as many turnovers as he did assists. None of that is to suggest that he can't be a good player for Pitt, but it's clear that he still has work to do.
The other factor he'll have to deal with is the fact that the Panthers brought in transfer Trey Zeigler. Zeigler is a far better scorer and should eat into Johnson's minutes a bit.
The problem for Johnson is that he could really be in a bit of a situation, particularly if Pitt continues to solicit recruits for 2013. They're already at their limit, but with the pursuit of Beejay Anya (who we've covered a great deal), the Panthers could again be in a position where they need to ask someone to move on. It looks as if Anya isn't coming, but the Panthers continuing to recruit another player for 2013 isn't out of the question. Pitt is plenty deep at guard, so if a player needs to leave the program, it could be a backcourt player that goes.
Either way, even if Johnson sticks around, he'll need to show a bit more than he did last year if he wants to get on the court.