If Noel falls to the Wizards, should they take him?
That Karron Johnson could be on the outside looking in come June 27 could seem unfair.
At one time, the 6-7 forward was a major-league talent, but played two years in junior college and two years at Division II Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C.
Johnson was among six players who worked out for the Wizards at Verizon Center on Wednesday. Had he qualified academically to attend Oklahoma State as planned, that alone would've improved his draft profile.
The Wizards won’t use their No. 3 overall pick on Johnson, but they have the Nos. 38 and 54 picks available in the second round. Johnson averaged 17.4 points, 8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, shot 61.4% from the field, including 33.3% from three-point range.
“It’s tougher. When I was in high school I was a pretty high-rated prospect. That still lingers in the back of people’s minds. On top of being a D-II player and having the kind of history I have, going from school to school, it makes it a little tougher,” said Johnson, who has only worked out for the Wizards so far with visits planned with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
Johnson’s story is winding one: His father was murdered when he was 5; he was a standout at Mount Zion Christian in Durham, N.C., which has produced NBA players Tracy McGrady and Marquis Daniels; he was supposed to attend Oklahoma State but didn't qualify academically; he went to two junior colleges and was suspended for nine games for undisclosed bad behavior.
He maintains the Wizards didn't press him on his personal issues, which could be an indication of their level of interest. But Johnson won’t hide from his past.
“I’m assuming it’s going to come. It hasn't come yet,” he said. “I’ll be honest. The way I figure, honesty is the best policy. There’s no need to lie. There are lots of people speculating what’s going on. It’s better to just tell the truth. If you like (the answers) you go with it. If you don’t, ‘Thanks for the opportunity.’”
Johnson has called on advice from Reggie Williams (Charlotte Bobcats) and Chris Copeland (New York Knicks), both of whom went undrafted, bounced around in the D-League but found success in the NBA.
“I feel like I can play with anybody. It’s just about getting the opportunity. I sit back and I watch NBA games and D-I games and I see a lot of guys that I played against,” Johnson said. “There’s a little chip on my shoulder. I feel like I should be there.”
He has played with Wizards point guard John Wall at the campus of N.C. State, which is located near Shaw in Raleigh, draft prospect C.J. Leslie (N.C. State) and current North Carolina forward James McAdoo.
Not getting drafted won't be the end for Johnson. It would be just the beginning.
"It wouldn't crush me," he said. "I feel like this is an opportunity to learn, add to my game and come back the next season a little hungrier, a little stronger, a little better."