James Johnson Skipping Final Two Years at Wake to Go Pro

Wes MillerCorrespondent IApril 7, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  James Johnson #23  of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons makes a jumpshot during their game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on December 3, 2008 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Wake Forest sophomore James Johnson says he will declare for the NBA Draft early next week.

"My mind's made up; I'm going to enter," the Cheyenne East graduate said by phone on Friday. "I think I'm ready now.

"If I sign with an agent and get into a training camp, it will help me out a lot. I just want to work hard and go as far as I can."

Johnson, 22, said he is currently interviewing agents. Signing with one would prevent him from removing his name from the draft and returning to Wake Forest.

The NBA Draft is set for June 25.

Johnson said he expects to meet with second-year Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio over the weekend and schedule a news conference for next week to announce his decision.

"I've already talked to Coach Gaudio and (assistant Pat) Kelsey and let them know," Johnson said. "Coach Kelsey was a big reason I'm here, and I worked hard to get here.

"I've told them I've been lucky to be coached by them. They know this is best for my career, but they're sad I've got to go."

Johnson started 59 of the 61 games he played at Wake Forest and averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. He was runner-up in Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year voting and was a third-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore.

This season, Johnson helped the Demon Deacons go 24-7 and contributed in a big way in the 70-68 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 28. He scored the game-winning layup, and Wake ascended to No. 1 after that contest.

Still, Johnson said his final game with the Deacons will be one that sticks him the most.
Wake Forest, the Midwest Region's No. 4 seed, was upset by 13th-seeded Cleveland State, 84-69, in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament.

"I was upset at the time that it could have been my last college game," he said. "Now it is my last college game. I'm still kind of upset about that.

"This is a business, and I have to make business decisions. I'd kind of like to pay (Cleveland State) back, but who knows if we'd ever play them again? I'm just trying to think about my future right now."
Various web sites specializing in draft predictions have Johnson going in the middle of the first round. All of these mocks include all of the draft-eligible players, regardless of whether they have officially declared.

Johnson's Wake Forest teammates Jeff Teague (sophomore) and Al-Farouq Aminu (freshman) are also projected as first-round picks, though neither has declared.