NCAA Tournament Interviews: Belmont's Kerron Johnson

    
March 7th, 2012
CHN writer Jon Teitel continues with his NCAA Tournament interviews, this time catching up with Belmont guard Kerron Johnson. The Bruins will be making the second consecutive NCAA tournament appearence as winners of the Atlantic Sun, knocking off FGCU in Saturday's title game. Belmont lost to four-seed Wisconsin in last year's tournament appearance.

Jon Teitel: You were an AAU teammate of Jon Hood, who is recovering from a torn ACL on the bench of top-ranked Kentucky. Have you talked to him at all during his rehab from surgery?

Kerron Johnson: I have not talked to him lately, but heard that he tore his ACL. We never really kept in touch, but hopefully he will recover soon.

JT: Last year you led the entire nation in steal percentage. What is your secret to being a great defender?

KJ: It is just about anticipation and being able to study what your opponent likes to do in certain situations. Coach Byrd says that the best defenders look like they are hardly working at all.

JT: You scored 13 points in a second round loss to Wisconsin in last year's tournament. What did you learn from that game that you think can help you this time around?

KJ: The overall experience of being in that type of atmosphere helped us. Now I play with more confidence and know that I deserve to be out there with all those other great players.

JT: You scored 15 points in your season opener, a one-point loss at Duke. What was it like to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and what is the key to playing well against a team like Duke?

KJ: Playing at Cameron was awesome; it is one of the best atmospheres in college basketball. It taught me that I have to keep my composure and cannot lose my cool. To beat a team like Duke you have to be disciplined and let the game come to you.

JT: You had 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in a win over Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun tournament title game en route to being named tournament MVP. How on earth does a 6'1" point guard get 11 rebounds in the biggest game of the season?!

KJ: I was just trying to do what my team needed me to do in that game. I was guarding a bigger guard who liked to crash the boards, so I just tried to help our big men rebound. Rebounds are all about toughness, and I just wanted to set an example.

JT: You enter the NCAA tournament on a 14-game winning streak. Do you feel like your team is playing it best basketball of the season right now?

KJ: Definitely. We have hit our stride at the right time. We had a hard schedule, but we are hot and feel ready to make a run.

JT: Coach Rick Byrd is one of a handful of active coaches with 600+ wins. What makes him such a great coach?

KJ: He is really good with Xs and Os and puts us in good positions to score. He is also good at scouting other teams and figuring out what they want to do.

JT: Your team is among the best in the country in scoring and three-point shooting. How important a weapon is the three-point shot to your team's success?

KJ: It is a really big part of our team, but we also rely on our big men and our post defense. Coach Byrd loves the three-point shot and we all have the green light when we are open. That is how we get our 20-point wins. When we are on, we are hard to beat.

JT: Your scoring, field goal and free throw percentages have all increased during each of your three years in college. How have you been able to continue to improve from year to year?

KJ: Just hard work and dedication in the summer to improving the parts of my game that I need to improve.

JT: What seed do you think you deserve, and what kind of team would you matchup against the best?

KJ: I think we have as good a team as last year's team that was a 13-seed, but we are more experienced this year. We deserve a 13, but are just happy to be in the tournament. We are not afraid to play anybody. We are fearless and can play with the best of the best.