Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | 10 p.m.
Nick Johnson not being named a McDonald's All-American could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Findlay Prep, who on Thursday begins its quest for a third consecutive ESPN Rise National High School Invitational title.
The other half of the Pilots' senior backcourt duo — Texas-bound point guard Myck Kabongo — took part in the annual all-star showcase on Wednesday night in Chicago, then hopped on a flight to join his team in Maryland for Thursday's quarterfinal round.
Johnson — a 6-foot-3 do-it-all guard who will suit up for Arizona next season — watched on TV.
"It's a huge motivation," Johnson said. "I talked to my family and they said if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. You've just got to move on. I can't say I wasn't (disappointed), but it's just part of life."
Johnson came to Findlay Prep (28-3) from Phoenix before the 2009-10 season known as a high-flyer with strong bloodlines, as the nephew of NBA legend Dennis Johnson. Between his junior and senior seasons, Johnson improved his outside jumper and is now as well-rounded of a shooting guard as you'll find in the nation.
Still, he was snubbed from the McDonald's game, and also from next month's Jordan Brand Classic.
There's no doubting, though, that he's been Findlay's pulse this season.
Findlay's run begins on Thursday at 1 p.m. local time against Dwyer (Fla.) High, with the game airing on ESPNU. The winner takes on whoever advances between Oak Hill (Va.) Academy and United Faith (N.C.) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The title game will be played on ESPN at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Findlay enters as the No. 3 seed. The top seed is Montrose Christian (Md.), who handed the Pilots their worst loss in program history on Feb. 12 in 63-37 fashion. Findlay hasn't played a game since a Feb. 25 victory over Impact Academy.
"From Day One, every single day, the goal it's win a national title — We hate to lose," Johnson said. "We definitely feel the pressure, and it's regular — We have to win a championship."