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Johnson proves he "belongs," Painter says

Matt Painter didn't get a chance to see JaJuan Johnson play with the US Select Team in New York recently.

But Painter saw all he needed when he bounced over to Las Vegas to watch Johnson earlier in the summer against the USA National Team.

"I thought he did a very good job," Painter said during a teleconference Monday. "I thought he was physical. I just thought overall, he embraced the physicality of the game. When he does that, he is very effective because he's skilled, he can make contested shots, he's long and he's active by the rim.

"I think he's going in the right direction. Any time you can get that kind of experience and have that kind of exposure, it's definitely going to help you. For him, it also lets him know he belongs. That's important for his confidence and his overall development. I think he's one of the best big guys if not the best big guy in the country.

"He's very versatile. He can do a lot of different things. Going against established NBA players only makes you better. I was very pleased he got the opportunity and very thankful USA basketball selected him."

Johnson wasn't available for interviews this week. Neither was any of his teammates. But they'll be back on campus for the start of school next week and immediately start individual workouts, Painter said.

We'll try to catch up with Johnson and his teammates who spent time overseas playing ball this summer (Lewis Jackson, D.J. Byrd, Sandi Marcius), next week.