Johnny Juzang was a regular at Pauley Pavilion while being wooed by some of the nation’s top college basketball programs as a local high school prospect, attending UCLA games and practices while getting to know the players.
Now he can call them his teammates.
Juzang announced on Twitter on Thursday that he is transferring to UCLA after spending his freshman season at Kentucky in a move that could significantly bolster the Bruins’ backcourt.
“Seeing that energy, all of that,” Juzang said in a telephone interview, “it was definitely kind of like a dream of mine to play for UCLA.”
Juzang, a 6-foot-6 guard who starred at Studio City Harvard-Westlake High, averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game as a Kentucky reserve but began to flourish late in the season. He made 10 of his last 20 three-point attempts and scored 10 points in a career-high 33 minutes during a comeback victory over Florida.
Juzang entered the transfer portal after the season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, providing an opportunity to move close to home while playing for a team he always adored. He had strongly considered UCLA out of high school but didn’t have much time to establish a relationship with new coach Mick Cronin and his staff after reclassifying into the Class of 2019 last spring and picking Kentucky.
Juzang said he had no regrets about his initial college choice.
“The experience at Kentucky was great,” he said. “I got so much better there and just grew so much and learned so much, basketball-wise, but also outside of that. I’m really glad with the decision I made to go there and forgo my senior year because it is one of the biggest programs and it’s arguably the biggest stage [in college basketball]. To have a year of experience there is something I’m really happy to have under my belt and I’m grateful for that experience.”
Juzang said he would pursue a waiver for immediate eligibility. He’ll join a growing list of Bruins newcomers that also includes Las Vegas Trinity International School point guard Daishen Nix and Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda High shooting guard Jaylen Clark. Even if junior guard Chris Smith departs for the NBA after recently declaring for the draft, the Bruins should be stocked with their best roster since Lonzo Ball led them to a 31-5 record during the 2016-17 season, enticing Juzang to make his own history at UCLA.
“Thinking about competing for a national title for the hometown team under coach Cronin is something that genuinely motivates me and wants me to get after it,” Juzang said, “so I’m super excited.”
Whenever Juzang makes his home debut, he figures to have a large contingent of family and friends in the stands.
“With no traffic, it’s a 20-minute drive to get into the underground parking lot at Pauley Pavilion,” said Maxie Juzang, Johnny’s father. “To think that we can go to every home game and potentially even some of the other Pac-12 games is just amazing.”