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On James Johnson

Over the weekend, our friend Whitey Reid had an outstanding profile of James Johnson over at the Daily Progress. Johnson, of course, is the 6'9" forward who was one of the jewels of Coach Bennett's incoming crop of freshman, and who surprised many by taking a redshirt last year.

Sounds like that redshirt season may pay off exceptionally well for the Virginia basketball program:

There was Virginia big man James Johnson — at a gym in California playing against NBA players Danny Granger and Paul George in a game of two-on-two. There was Johnson, with Granger lunging out at him, draining a 3-pointer. There was Johnson, just seconds later, dunking on George as NBA player Nick Young hooted and hollered in the background.

Yeah, you could say Johnson has had a pretty nice summer.

In June and early July, UVa’s 6-foot-9, 230-pounder worked out for about a month with Granger, George and Young. Twice a week, he made the two-hour trek (depending on traffic) from his family’s home in Wildomar, Calif., to a health and fitness club in Los Angeles.

Go read the entire article, and then check out Reid's follow-up over at his blog.

From my perspective, if Virginia is going to have a successful basketball season in 2011-12, Johnson is going to be one of the keys. He's clearly more of a highly-skilled big man than we've become accustomed to seeing, and with the return of Mike Scott, Johnson won't have the pressure of being the primary low-post option.

If Johnson has improved, as advertised, and if he can provide a little scoring, some rebounding, and some defense, he can really help Virginia progress toward an NCAA tournament berth. My fingers are crossed.