by Adam Figman / @afigman
SLAM: Tell us about your hometown.
Wesley Johson: I grew up in Corsicana, about 40 miles south of Dallas. Most of my family lives there, in Texas.
SLAM: Did you come up in a competitive basketball environment?
WJ: Yeah, I did. Especially with my AAU teammates—I always played against older kids when I was growing up, so that really pushed me. We always went around and played in different YMCAs.
SLAM: Any notable spots that you grew up spending a lot of time at?
WJ: The Y[MCA]. It was hot, too hot outside, so we used to play at night [outside], but it was still too hot. So we used to go to the Y after school, on weekends. We were in there from when we got up until it closed.
SLAM: You started playing college ball at Iowa State, then had to sit out a season after transferring to Syracuse. How tough was that year for you?
WJ: That was a hard, hard year. But it really helped me work on my game and helped me get to the situation I’m in now.
SLAM: What was the most important thing Coach Jim Boeheim taught you?
WJ: He taught me to always stay ready, and always watch, because I was sitting out [after transferring]. All the little stuff he told me to do, I think that really helped me mentally, when I started playing and for now.
SLAM: At what point during this whole process did you realize you had a true NBA career ahead of you?
WJ: I’d have to say when we played North Carolina. After the year I sat out, I finally got a test when we played North Carolina, and after I did that, I was like, Yeah, this is possible.
SLAM: Growing up, did you have a favorite pair of kicks?
WJ: Oh man, growing up, it was probably the Jordans that I grew up wearing. I had a pair of [adidas] Crazy 8s, and I had Jordans—those were the two I would wear.
SLAM: Do you remember your first pair?
WJ: My first pair were the white-and-black Crazy 8s. After that, I got the white-and-black IXs.
SLAM: When you went pro, you signed with adidas. Why?
WJ: I went with adidas because I really just love the product. It was really just going up to the headquarters and meeting everybody and seeing the shoes. I love sneakers, and I grew up wearing the shoes, so they blessed me with an opportunity and I went with ’em.
SLAM: How big is your sneaker collection?
WJ: [Laughs] Honestly, I couldn’t even put a number on it. I have boxes in my living room. I have shoes that I take with me to Michigan, Minnesota, here [L.A.] I have a humongous shoe collection.
SLAM: Growing up, if you could only watch one guy play, who would it have been?
WJ: One guy?!
SLAM: Yeah, someone you’d rather watch play more than anybody else.
WJ: Scottie Pippen.
WJ: Because he did everything on the court, as far as defending, scoring, whatever—on the court, he was doing it. I liked that all-around [game].
SLAM: Did you shape your game after his?
WJ: Yeah, just trying to be an all-around player. I was intrigued that he was such an all-around player.
SLAM: Do you get to give back charity-wise at all?
WJ: Yeah. Actually, when I just went back home to see my family, we were actually talking about that—doing stuff with kids and doing stuff with the community. My family is really into church and stuff, so whenever I can, I do. This was my first year, and whenever I had free time I really had to [practice], but that’s what I plan on doing.
SLAM: What’s the biggest lesson you took out of your rookie year?
WJ: Really just try to stay positive. We had all of those losses, but I was really just trying to stay positive, and be ready. You never know what’s going to happen.