Johnny Juzang, who plays as a junior guard for the UCLA Bruins, may become the first Asian American lottery pick for the NBA.
Juzang, whose mother is Vietnamese, has made enormous strides for the team since he transferred over from Kentucky. The Bruins are headed into the Final Four for the first time since 2008.
“It’s not something that’s on the top of my mind or really think about. I’m just Johnny,” Juzang said. “I will get messages or hear stories about how I inspire people, regardless of their heritage. Sometimes there are people of Asian decent. But just being able to inspire people is something that’s touching and inspires me and something I don’t take lightly.”
His older brother Christian, who previously played for Harvard, led the Vietnamese Basketball Association’s Saigon Heat to the 2020 Championship.
Juzang reportedly transferred to UCLA only last year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the basketball season. He wanted to be closer to his family in Tarzana, California, according to the Associated Press.
Though he missed the first four games of the season because of a foot injury, he quickly proved himself to be a valuable player.
“Juzang was the Bruins’ leading scorer at 15.5 points per game while shooting 34% from the 3-point arc and seemed to get better as the season progressed. He scored at least 20 points three times in the NCAA Tournament, including 28 against Michigan to clinch a spot in the Final Four,” basketball writer Tim Reynolds noted, adding that “he’s done it on an ankle that’s been bothering him for weeks.”
Juzang’s success in the sport so far has already won him praise from Vietnam and around the world.
“That’s always a good feeling to hear from people, but I wouldn’t say it’s on the forefront of my mind,” he said.
Regardless of where he stands in the draft, Juzang serves as inspiration and hope to young Asian Americans, especially at a time when anti-Asian hate and violence have been on the rise, Reynolds added.
Feature Image vie Getty