What If?: Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson Back For Another Year


It is stressful to go thru life thinking “What If…”. It can surface unwanted feelings of dissatisfaction while supplementing regret.

Life is better when you stick to your guns and forget about what could have been! BUT..in sports, it is almost impossible to avoid the ever-alluring fantasy of fixing what went wrong. We all do it. A different play here, a quicker defensive rotation there. “WE SHOULD HAVE HAD THAT GAME!”

For the sake of entertainment, let’s turn back the clock and let our imaginations wonder; what if Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson had decided to stay another year in Tucson?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Flashback to March 29, 2014. Where were you at 8:49PM EST? Most likely glued to a couch or bar stool, excited for the imminent Elite Eight clash of No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Wisconsin. If not a couch or bar stool, you were at Frog & Firkin!

Fast forward a few hours..after you pulled your jaw off the ground following a one-point OT loss, depression hit harder than Scooby Wright III. Eh, maybe not harder than Scoob, but it hit really, really hard.


If you didn’t click that link, no worries. It was an emotional rollercoaster, let’s review…

Cats down 1 with 12 seconds left in overtime. TJ McConnell throws up a wild shot (NO!) but gets his own rebound (YES!) and pulls the ball out to Nick Johnson to reset the offense. Six seconds left on the clock, Nick drives right to the block, (YES!) Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky slides over for a double team, (NO!) Nick creates enough space to get a shot up, (YES!) and then gets called for a push off (NOOOO..) During Wisconsin’s inbound, fan favorite Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scuffles his way to an unbelievable defensive play and the ball gets knocked out-of-bounds (YES!) After five minutes of reviewing who touched it last, (…YES!? NO!?…) the refs decided- Wildcat ball (YES!!!!) With 2.3 seconds left, Cats still down one. Nick catches the ball, curls left, creates space (….YES!) aaaaaaaand…doesn’t get a shot off in time (huge ‘NO!’)

Heartbreak. Badgers advance to the Final Four, Cats sent home to Tucson. Frustration looms over the Arizona locker room and impending ‘insult to injury’ is on the horizon; all eyes turn towards Aaron and Nick and their respective next moves.

Enter our always captivating friend, “What If…”

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What if on the walk back to the locker room, AG and Nick made a pact to take another swing at a National Championship? What if they decided to put off the NBA draft, and use this failure as fuel for the next year? What if instead of ‘That’s all she wrote’, they said ‘We’ll be back’?

What could have happened with a core of TJ, Stanley, Nick, Gabe, Rondae, AG, Bash, and Tarczewski? (Think about that squad for a second..ugh!)

Would it have been enough to give Wisconsin a run for their money in this year’s Elite Eight? Could we have gone blow for blow with the towering bigs at Kentucky? Could we have kept up with the speedy guards at Duke? Who would have come off the bench? Would Stanley Johnson have even came to Arizona in the first place, knowing that Nick was to remain at shooting guard? What if, what if, what if!?

Unfortunately, all of these hypotheticals highlight the existence of an unfortunate truth that we face: many of today’s collegiate athletes posses a hurried mentality to get to the next level. True, it is justifiable when millions of dollars are breathing down your neck, and staying in college could present a risk of falling draft stock, or even worse, injury.

This is all true, BUT it is also important to think about the possibilities of an avenged Elite Eight matchup, or the ever-lasting bond of a college team that kept their core together for four hard years, i.e. good ol’ Laettner and the Dukies.

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The possibilities are endless for a group of guys that 1) buy into the system and 2) give it time to develop. Both of these components are crucial to success, the second being much rarer nowadays.

As we are in the thick of the ‘One-And-Done’ era, all we are left with is our imagination to rewrite the script to our own tune. So, what would have happened if Nick and Aaron decided to lace ’em up in McKale for one last hoorah? Who knows? Maybe we would have marched our way to the second Natty in Arizona history. Maybe we would have flopped out of the second round. Here lies the beauty of the double-edged sword that is “What If…”.

Dream on, Wildcats.

Next: Ryan Anderson is ready to rock McKale!