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John Calipari warned Johnny Juzang of outside noise when returning home, open to a return to Kentucky

When Johnny Juzang returned home to California following Kentucky’s abrupt end to the season earlier this month, John Calipari knew there was a chance the freshman guard would not return to campus when players were allowed back.

With transfer buzz already picking up following Christmas break just a few months back, the Kentucky head coach told Juzang there would likely be individuals in his ear telling him it was in his best interest to transfer closer to home.

It was up to him, though, if he wanted to listen.

“[Juzang] said, “Coach, I’m going to put my name in the [NCAA transfer] portal,”‘ Calipari said of his conversation with Juzang in a Saturday evening appearance on the SEC Network. “We had told him before he went back to California, “You’re going to be hit left and right about coming back home.”‘

As he stressed immediately following Juzang’s transfer decision, Calipari doesn’t want the Los Angeles, CA native to leave. If Juzang wants to learn what it takes to be a professional basketball player, Kentucky is the place to make it happen.

“We had a great talk, I loved coaching him, he got better all year. This is a unique play,” Calipari said. “What I said to him was simply, “You’re going to learn to fight here. You learn to take what you want. You learn that when other players are better than you, you figure things out. Nothing is guaranteed.” You lose that, because if you want to be professional, that’s the most important thing you learn here. Learn to fight, learn to take what you want, nothing guaranteed. We’re not making promises, you take it. Don’t lose that.”

If he chooses to pull his name out of the transfer portal, Calipari will be thrilled. If not, he knows his relationship with Juzang will continue years down the road.

“My feeling will be, five years from now or two years from now, he’s making a decision, he’ll call. “Coach, what do you think?”’ the Kentucky head coach said. “And I told him, if you choose to come back, I’m fine. I’m not going to hold anything against him. For these young kids, this is a hard deal.”

This falls right in line with the comments the UK head coach had immediately after the decision on Friday afternoon.

“I talked to Johnny last night along with his family and let him know if he wants to come back here that this option is always open to him,” Calipari said. “Johnny had a great year and really got better as the season went on. I always enjoyed coaching him, and if there’s an opportunity to continue to do so, I would welcome it with open arms because Johnny is a great kid and a skilled basketball player with a bright future.”

As a freshman, Juzang finished the year averaging 2.9 points (37.7% shooting, 32.6% 3PT, 83.3% FT), 1.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 12.3 minutes per contest.

After a slow start to the season, the 6-foot-6 guard managed three consecutive games of multiple made shots against Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas Tech, followed it up with a 13-point performance on 4-4 shooting from three at Tennessee, and closed out the season with a 10-point, 4-6 shooting effort in 33 minutes at Florida.

Out of high school, the No. 33 overall prospect in the 2019 247Sports Composite Rankings chose the Wildcats over offers from Kansas, Virginia, and UCLA, among others.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

27 Comments for John Calipari warned Johnny Juzang of outside noise when returning home, open to a return to Kentucky

  1. whack0001
    10:04 am March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Great opportunities may only come around a few times in your life. It’s sad to watch a kid throw one away.

  2. just a guy
    10:05 am March 29, 2020 Permalink

    11 seasons, 14 transfers out. In last 2 years we’ve lost players mid season. Since then we’ve gone from recruiting best of best to now getting grad transfers and HS juniors to reclassify in order to fill rosters. I get Cal recruits over people, I also get how this isn’t for everyone, but all I can say is thank goodness he’s able to patchwork a good recruiting class every year, as the instability of the program seems palpable. Next years class is great, and “these guys will play over the guys here now” but we’ve been saying that for several years, and we haven’t seen a truly great UK team for 5 years now. I wish JJ the best, seems like great kid, but players transferring out of this program no longer surprises anyone.

    • Alex90
      10:19 am March 29, 2020 Permalink

      That’s every program now, that’s why they’re looking to change the rules for it.

    • runningunnin.454
      1:44 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      All transfers were probably due to concerns about playing time; but, I am so tired of hearing they’re homesick; if true, that’s certainly an indictment of this generation…cut the apron strings, fellas.
      When I was Juzang’s age, I was in Vietnam; and, I don’t recall there being a transfer portal. If there had been, I certainly would have transferred to Hawaii…or Alaska.

    • UKgrad80
      2:03 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Great reply runningunnin and thank you for your service back when it wasn’t an occupational choice they just said hey you go to war.

    • Tom Bombadil
      3:54 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Waaaaa…waaaaaa cry me a river. You need a different program to root for. Or hey I know you could have became a coach and then you could keep all the players happy and content…. show us how it’s done big boy! cry baby.

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:11 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Times have changed and while I do appreciate the service of our men and women, I’m tired of vets comparing their upbringing and experiences to those of the young men who choose to play basketball or football.

      It takes every kinda people
      To make what life’s about, yeah
      Every kinda people
      To make the world go ’round….Robert Palmer

    • runningunnin.454
      9:56 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Sorry, 4ever; yes, I know I call them kids due to our age discrepancy, but fact is, these are grown men, old enough to carry a rifle as many have in our nation’s history.
      Have you ever heard of Dan Bullock? He was stationed at An Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province. He was killed by a satchel charge…he was 15.
      And, I’m just growing weary of grown men who can’t seem to cross the street without Mommy and Daddy. Of course, I’m just as weary of Mommy and Daddy trying to control their “cash cow” and holding their hands out.

  3. UKLugo
    10:17 am March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Cal always keeps it real and he always puts his kids before his own interests. I love that about him.

  4. Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert
    12:54 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    He probably got tired of getting pulled after one mistake. Meanwhile, turnover machine, Ashton Hagans, was allowed to throw the ball away non stop and remain in the game. Total double standard.

    • StuckinLville
      1:16 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Towards the end of the season, that couldn’t be more untrue. Juzang had come into his own and Cal knew that so he let him play through things as long as he was playing hard. You have to learn to fight and in the beginning he was not. Cal knows that Hagan’s always fights. His defense is why he stayed in games and due to the lack of bench.

    • UKgrad80
      2:04 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Only fighting I saw Hagans do was with Cal

    • meeksfor3
      8:57 am March 30, 2020 Permalink

      For most of the season he was getting beat on defense, he couldn’t make a shot and he either made a turnover or took an ill advised shot. So when he is giving nothing productive why does he deserve minutes? If you play guys who aren’t productive and lose to teams like Evansville then fans lose their minds. Make up your mind of what you want. Do you want to win or every kid to “play through mistakes”?

  5. kuhlkat
    1:15 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Hot stuff it was because the other end of the court.

  6. zoupman
    1:50 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Coach Cal is so good to his players. UK will be fine with or without JJ. Wish him well.

  7. BigBlueFoo42777
    2:14 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    There’s 2 guys on this years team that would be guaranteed a starting spot next year. The kids coming next year can play w/o being drama queens.

  8. friendsofcoal
    2:40 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink


  9. TonyMontana
    2:40 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Factoid: Zero players have been drafted after transferring away from Kentucky. If you can’t make it at Kentucky, you really think you can make it in the NBA? If you want to play, you’ve got to stay and you’ve got to work your a$$ off.

    • Good Times
      2:50 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Probably should qualify that this is only true in the Calipari era, but the point is still an interesting one that I hadn’t noticed until now.

    • Matt10
      7:02 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      Great comment Tony. I’d love to see that list.

  10. CahillsCrossingNT
    3:37 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    Somebody coming in for next year will probably enter the portal next spring, assuming there even is a next season. This program hasn’t been the same since 2015, and that’s undeniable.

    • CrystalBall
      5:20 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

      2015. The year of the platoon.

    • Irish son
      7:08 pm March 30, 2020 Permalink

      I really believe that year broke Cal’s spirit. He knew he had the best team, and he knows HE blew it

  11. dave1964
    5:42 pm March 29, 2020 Permalink

    If you want your playing time GIVEN to you don’t come to Kentucky, if you don’t want to work hard don’t come to Kentucky, if you don’t want competition don’t come to Kentucky. Bye.

  12. Looother
    9:18 pm March 31, 2020 Permalink

    Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on your way out…