By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Johnny Juzang knows what it takes to get more playing time this season.
“I’ve got to do a lot of the small things,” Juzang said. “(I’m) just trying to find ways to contribute to the team and impact the game. (I’m) just putting out effort and being a good teammate, just things like that have been really big for me this year and something I’ll always stand by.”
Juzang has played more than 13 minutes per game off the bench in the past two games and scored a season-high five points in a win over UAB last Friday. Juzang has given the Wildcats off the bench in the post and grabbed six rebounds in wins over Mount St. Mary’s, Lamar and UAB.
“I think the big thing for me, this whole year, has been keep your head down and keep working and putting out and trying to find ways to contribute to the team,” he said.
Juzang’s minutes have increased since senior Nate Sestina fractured his non-shooting hand in practice last week. Juzang figures to earn more minutes when the eighth-ranked Wildcats (6-1) take on Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday at Rupp Arena.
During the past seven days, Juzang has gotten his first experience if “Camp Cal” and yearly schedule that includes more practice time as opposed to a rigid frame schedule similar to the opening month of the season. Juzang said Calipari’s point of emphasis has been for his team to fight and finish games.
“It has been a big emphasis on it, especially the last week or two (and) that’s been a really big thing for us,” Juzang said. “I didn’t think we were putting away teams as well as we probably could’ve. So there’s been an emphasis on it more than usual.”
In addition to adjusting to becoming tougher on the court, Juzang has changed his shooting habits. While in high school, Juzang was more of a volume shooter as opposed to being more selective.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s a good adjustment because here you have to learn to play efficient, come in and make an immediate impact and the big thing is efficiency also going to the next level,” he said. “Going there, you’re probably not going come in shooting 20 shots a game, so you’ve go to learn to be efficient there as well. So it’s a good adjustment, a great learning experience.”
Juzang has made just two 3-pointers on 11 attempts this season, but isn’t worried about the lack of production from behind the arc and added his shot has “been feeling really good.”
“It’s not something I’m worried about,” he said. “At the end of the day, the numbers will balance out. I’m not worried about it. I know I can shoot the ball and it’s been feeling good.”
Juzang also has learned that growth takes time and is a process that requires patience.
“One of the bigger things is finding comfort in your growth and your process and not harping too much on the results,” he said. “Keeping your faith that it’s going to work out, keep working hard and doing what you do and focus on your process rather than how it’s working out for you at that moment. Your time will come, you just don’t know when that is.”
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Gametracker: Fairleigh Dickinson at Kentucky, 4 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.