UCLA's Myles Johnson puts basketball dreams aside to start his career as an engineer

UCLA’s Myles Johnson puts basketball dreams aside to start his career as an engineer

Long before becoming a rebound-blocking and shot-blocking force at UCLA, Myles Johnson had to face questions about his priorities.

His size and skill with a basketball in hand made him naturally gifted, and those with a strong athletic flair realized he had found his calling.

But Johnson had other interests. He liked to cook. He spoke a little Japanese. And there was always that unquenchable first love.

Johnson displayed a natural aptitude for science, technology, and math that would lead him to major in engineering, first at Rutgers as an undergraduate and then at UCLA as a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering.

Along the way, Johnson became a part-time starter on the Bruins basketball team, the 6-foot-10 center who emerged as UCLA’s best rebounder and home defender last season on a team that reached the Sweets. 16 in the NCAA tournament.

But the transfer of the graduate never strayed from its main commitment. On Thursday he announced on social media that he would be giving up one final season of fitness to finish his college degree and start his career off the pitch.

No tests on the waters of the NBA draft. No basketball abroad.

All engineering.

“More or less, this is my retirement from basketball,” Johnson told the Times. “It was one of those confrontational moments where I just had to sit there and say, ‘You know what, this might be a hard pill to swallow, but in the long run I feel this is for the best.’ I feel like I’m giving up one thing to open a door to another part of my life. “

The next chapter begins this summer in San Jose, where Johnson will be a returning senior intern in hardware development for IBM. He will then complete the two quarters of tuition he left online before graduating in March, with UCLA likely paying the tuition bill.

“More or less, this is my retirement from basketball. … I feel like I’m giving up one thing to open a door to another part of my life “

– Myles Johnson

Johnson has a permanent offer from IBM and a strong lead in an NBA job – in the technical and analytics department of the Golden State Warriors, who contacted him about joining their front office.

It was a complex calculation that led Johnson to prefer engineering to basketball. He thought he was playing abroad but couldn’t see himself living in a country where he didn’t speak the language. He talked to longtime friend Ethan Thompson, the former Oregon State star, about life in the G League.

Eventually, he was influenced by other possibilities. One of his contacts at IBM, who runs the diversity department, told Johnson it could help attract more minorities to the industry, something Johnson had already undertaken through the creation of his nonprofit foundation, BLKdev. He was also intrigued by the possibility of working for the Warriors, whose general manager, Bob Myers, was a member of UCLA’s 1995 national championship team.

Johnson set out his options in a meeting with UCLA manager Mick Cronin, who said he would support him regardless of his decision.

Myles Johnson is moving away from basketball to focus on his engineering degree and career.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

“He was very understanding, he was like, ‘Yeah, you have a lot of paths and for you none of them are really a bad decision,'” Johnson said. “So he put the ball in my court and was like, ‘Whatever you do, I’ll back it.’ “So I just thought about it and was like, moving on … now I can do more organizational work and start my professional career, start right away.”

Johnson’s departure is a bigger blow than his stats might indicate. In his only season at UCLA, he averaged 3.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks despite averaging just 18.1 minutes per game. A disruptive defender with active hands, he was selected as a member of the Pac-12 defensive team and his presence was especially critical after starting forward Cody Riley suffered a knee injury in the season opener that put him aside for nearly two months.

Johnson’s departure drastically changes the team’s outlook in the frontcourt next season. Unless Riley returns, coveted freshman Adem Bona will challenge red-jersey freshman Mac Etienne for a starting spot, assuming Etienne has sufficiently recovered from the torn knee ligament that sidelined him last season.

Bona, a 6-9 center at Napa Prolific Prep, combines elite athleticism with an impressive array of post moves, giving the Bruins the kind of inside attacking presence they have lacked in recent years. He will be pushed by Etienne, with Kenneth Nwuba serving as a backup.

Johnson becomes the fourth Bruin to leave, joining junior guard Johnny Juzang and freshman guard Peyton Watson, who are entering the NBA draft, and junior guard Jake Kyman, who announced he would be moving to Wyoming. But the team’s core is expected to remain largely intact with junior guards Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. returning in addition to senior guard David Singleton and second-year guard Jaylen Clark.

“I definitely thought about coming back, especially with the potential, no one really went anywhere and also the people who came and all,” Johnson said, “but in the grand scheme of things, I thought it would be better. for me. “

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