2003 Honorable-Mention All-Big 12 (Coaches)
2003 Big 12 Rookie of the Week (Feb. 24)
2003 Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year (AP, Coaches)
Nate Johnson returns for his second and final year with the Huskers after joining the program following his career as an All-American at Penn Valley Community College. Johnson, who was forced into action at the point for the first time in his career last year, will move back to his natural position of shooting guard, where he hopes to help the Husker offense even more.
Johnson has a year under his belt and now knows the offensive system the Huskers employ. He will look to integrate his slashing style more this season. He has outstanding leaping ability and showed flashes of his ability to take over a game in crucial moments last year. At times, he was NU’s best defensive presence, with solid quickness and good hands while distrupting the passing lanes.
This season, Johnson looks to improve his field goal percentage and shooting from behind the arc, while continuing his solid play on the boards. He also has outstanding stamina, as he led the team in minutes played last year, including 11 games with at least 35 minutes played.
Johnson joined the Huskers and immediately took over the top role at shooting guard, starting all 28 games he played while seeing a team-high 895 minutes, four more than guard Corey Simms. Johnson was second on the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game and added 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest.
Johnson was one of NU’s best free throw shooters, as he hit 72.8 percent from the arc to rank 14th in the Big 12. His 83 made free throws and 114 attempts were both team highs. He also ranked among the league leaders with 22 steals in Big 12 play (13th), and finished second for the Huskers with 30 on the season.
Johnson’s productivity was expected, as he was selected the league’s preseason newcomer of the year by both the coaches and the Associated Press after earning JUCO All-America honors as a sophomore. Johnson was selected honorable-mention All-Big 12 by the coaches at the end of the regular season.
While learning the offense, Johnson averaged 12.7 points per game in non-conference play. In his third game with the Huskers, Johnson pitched in 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting with six rebounds and two assists against Ball State in the final game of the Top of the World Classic. It was the first of four 20-point contests for Johnson on the year.
In his debut in Lincoln, Johnson scored just seven points but showcased a complete game by adding six rebounds, five assists and one steal against Texas-San Antonio. For the season, Johnson had at least five rebounds in 10 contests, including a career-high eight against Iowa State in NU’s final home game of the year.
Johnson came back to add 18 points at Arizona State on 8-of-13 shooting before picking up a career-high 25 points, including hitting 9-of-13 from the charity stripe, in an overtime victory against Denver. Johnson took over the end of the contest against the Pioneers, as he scored 12 points in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. His outburst against DU was his second straight impressive performance down the stretch. Against Eastern Washington, Johnson started the second half on the bench, but scored 10 of NU’s final 11 points in the final 3:45 to help the Huskers defeat EWU. He finished the game with 12 points in just 14 minutes.
Johnson did not have as much time to get accustomed to Big 12 play, as he was moved to point guard in his first league game when Jake Muhleisen was sidelined with a fractured hip that would knock him out of action the rest of the season. Johnson had never been the primary ball handler and setup man at any level, but he responded well by finishing second on the team with 63 assists on the year.
In the third game of the league slate, Johnson helped the Huskers to an overtime victory over Colorado. Johnson slashed his way to a team-high 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while adding six rebounds and three assists in a career-high 42 minutes. He scored 15 points after halftime, including a layup with less than eight seconds left to force overtime.
Against Iowa State at home, Johnson poured in 20 points with eight rebounds and one steal. Earlier in the week, he added 15 points, four rebounds and three assists to help him earn Big 12 Rookie-of-the Week honors on Feb. 24. He was the first Husker since Kimani Ffriend in 1999-2000 to earn the league’s weekly award.
Previous College (Penn Valley CC)
Johnson ranked fifth in the nation in scoring as a sophomore at Penn Valley CC under head coach Clay Johnson, pouring in 26.5 points per game. He added 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals, while ranking among the national top five in three-pointers made with 128. He also ranked 29th nationally in assists with 4.75 per game.
Johnson’s scoring and defensive ability helped him earn NJCAA Division II National Player-of-the-Year honors. He was also tabbed a first-team All-American, marking his second straight All-America certificate. As a freshman, Johnson earned second-team honors.
A two-time player of the year in the region, Johnson helped Penn Valley to a 26-10 record and a berth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament as a sophomore. He averaged 30.5 points during the tourney, including a 48-point outburst in the national semifinals when he hit 17-of-30 attempts from the floor, including 7-of-13 three-point attempts.
Johnson's offense and leadership helped Penn Valley to the national title game, where it fell by one point, 58-57, to Redlands (Okla.) CC. For his efforts, he was selected to the all-tournament team and named the tourney MVP despite finishing on the runner-up squad.
Earlier in the year, Johnson set a single-game career-high of 51 points. He finished as Penn Valley’s all-time leading scorer with 1,708 points in two seasons.
Under Coach Wayne Van Dine at Wyandotte High School, Johnson averaged 22 points and four rebounds per game as a senior to earn second-team all-state honors for the second time in his career. As a junior, he averaged 17 points, three rebounds and four assists.
Nate is the son of Mary and Darryl Johnson, and has six sisters and six brothers. He was born Jan. 9, 1979, and is majoring in sociology at Nebraska. He is married to Keasha Cannon-Johnson, a senior on the NU women’s basketball team. The couple has an infant son, Nate Jr.
Johnson picked NU over DePaul, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Kansas State, Iowa State and USC.