It was easy enough to spot the 6’6” Keldon Johnson making his way around the AT&T Center floor on Sunday afternoon, even among the crowds of people and stacks of Yeezys, customized Chuck Taylors, throwback jerseys, Funko figurines and other collectible miscellanea that made up the team’s third annual Sneaker Jam.
After an on-stage Q&A where he touched on the company he signed with upon turning pro (Nike), his favorite shoes (Jordans), and what his own signature shoe might one day look like (kind of like Kobe’s line, he said, but with his own spin on it), the affable 19-year-old made himself available for pictures and autographs as he ambled through the various booths of the event, eventually ending up at a corner of the floor designated for a few questions from the media.
The rookie swingman is already endearing himself to fans in San Antonio, and his humble nature and approachability should only facilitate that in the coming years. Once he was done speaking for the cameras about the event, Johnson spent a few minutes with your humble blogger, who only half-stuttered through some questions to get to know this year’s 29th overall pick. One of his first answers, when asked what NBA team the Virginia native rooted for growing up, immediately surprised me.
“My favorite team was San Antonio — I swear,” he answered with a toothy smile. “It’s crazy because all my teachers when I was younger asked who my favorite team was. I said San Antonio Spurs.”
Johnson is wearing number three next season, the same jersey number he wore at Kentucky. “That was just my favorite number growing up,” he said. “I had it since middle school... I really liked Chris Paul growing up, so that helped, as well.”
Shortly after being drafted by San Antonio, Johnson heard the news of a familiar face returning to the sidelines as a member of the coaching staff. I asked what he was looking forward to about having Coach Tim on the sidelines.
“It’s great being able to have a coach who’s been through all the things you’ll be going through,” he said. “Having him as a coach is definitely a blessing, learning as much as possible from him.”
Following a promising Summer League playing alongside fellow rookies Luka Samanic and Quinndary Weatherspoon, Johnson’s spent time getting acquainted with other teammates:
“I’ve been talking to Dejounte a lot... Bryn. We’ve all been in the gym, playing five on five a lot, playing with LaMarcus. We’ve all just been getting after it a lot and enjoying the process.”
Johnson expressed a familiarity and positive attitude with the Spurs’ measured approach in working rookies, an important quality for a young man to have as he enters a season where playing time in San Antonio is uncertain.
“It’s a process with the Spurs,” Johnson said. “They’ve produced many great players, so just coming in here and trusting the process. The proof is in the pudding — it’s right there... I just want to grow and learn. As long as that happens then I think I’ll have a successful season. Not really gauging it on accolades — I think as long as I’m learning from my coach and the players in front of me, that’s how I’ll gauge my rookie season.”
With training camp just around the corner, the Spurs rookie is excited to get started.
“I can’t wait, of course. I can’t wait to learn and grow from players on our team and definitely from our coach. I’m ready.”