From Flickr Creative Commons by Ron Sellers
Asian American Johnny Juzang is the leading scorer behind University of California Los Angeles’s (UCLA) 19th appearance at the Final Four semifinals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, The Undefeated reports. 2021 will be UCLA’s first entrance into the Final Four since 2008.
Juzang, a sophomore transfer from the University of Kentucky, scored the final three points needed for UCLA to win against No. 1 seed University of Michigan by two points. This victory came after Juzang suffered a right ankle sprain on court during the second half.
Throughout the course of the game, Juzang made a total of 28 points, making him the third player on UCLA’s men’s basketball team to ever score 20 or more points within his first two NCAA tournaments, according to The Orange County Register (OCR).
“To be able to win for that team, the home team, is so meaningful,” Juzang told the OCR. “And to make all those people proud that you’ve known for so long, it’s an incredible feeling.”
As a member of the AAPI community — Juzang’s mother is Vietnamese American and his father is Creole — Juzang has been seen as an inspiration to many other aspiring Asian athletes. Juzang expressed his happiness at being considered a role model for both Asians and non-Asians.
“It’s not something that’s on the top of my mind or really think about,” he said, according to the NBA. “I’m just Johnny. I will get messages or hear stories about how I inspire people, regardless of their heritage. Sometimes there are people of Asian descent.”
Due to his outstanding performance, Juzang is projected to be the first Asian American NBA first-round pick in the following year according to the NBA. If he becomes a lottery pick, he will make history as an Asian American in college basketball with NBA potential.
“I think it’ll be a really significant moment and I think the more that it can just be felt where that is normal, I think is what can make it even more significant,” Erik Spoelstra, Filipino coach of the Miami Heat, said about the timing. “It doesn’t matter what your race is or what your background is. As long as you can hoop, then people can see you in that way.”
Regardless of what the course of his basketball career may mean for the AAPI community, Juzang was grateful for an opportunity to be a role model. “Just being able to inspire people is something that’s touching and inspires me and something I don’t take lightly,” he said.
UCLA will be playing against Gonzaga University for a shot at the national championships tonight at 8:34 p.m.
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