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Chipped off

  • TONY AVELAR / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
    Zane Johnson averaged 15.8 points per game this season. His performance last week earned the junior his first WAC player of the week award.
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Zane Johnson is in the right place to cash out the chip on his shoulder.

The Hawaii junior guard has all the motivation he needs heading into tomorrow’s first-round WAC tournament game against San Jose State at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. After a strong finish to the regular season, the sharpshooter felt disrespected over the Western Athletic Conference postseason awards announced Sunday.

WAC TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND

» No. 8 San Jose State (15-14) vs. No. 5 Hawaii (18-11)

» Tomorrow, 10 a.m., at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

» TV: None

» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

Johnson, the WAC’s third-leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, was not an All-WAC first- or second-team selection, but did receive honorable mention and make the all-newcomer team.

"It’s not too bad," Johnson said over the phone yesterday after UH practiced at a Las Vegas workout center. "I expected a little bit more, but I’m just going to use it as motivation, you know. It does kind of make me angry, but it’ll just be motivation to help my team out."

Senior forward Bill Amis was the only UH player to pick up any All-WAC honors, on the second team.

However, Johnson received his first career WAC player of the week award yesterday after averaging 23.5 points in road games at SJSU and Fresno State last week. That honor — the second for a UH player this season — was nice and all, but was essentially another consolation prize.

Johnson, never one afraid to speak his mind, gave a chuckle about it.

"I don’t even know what to say. I guess ‘thanks.’ Thanks," he said.

The 6-foot-6 Arizona transfer was lethal during much of UH’s 8-3 finish in WAC play after an 0-5 start. Over the past five games, he averaged 23.4 points and 5.6 3-pointers made. In the 77-71 win at SJSU and 85-70 loss at Fresno State to close the regular season, he shot a combined 17-for-28 from the field and 10-for-19 on 3-pointers.

It seemed improbable just a few weeks ago, but he is now just three 3-pointers from tying Michael Kuebler’s single-season treys record of 97.

He’s been increasingly reminded of that fact as he’s climbed the charts, passing long-range greats Predrag Savovic, Trevor Ruffin and Carl English with his recent long-range binge. He’s consistently downplayed it.

"I’m not really thinking about it too much," said Johnson, who is shooting 42.7 percent from long range for the season. "But I got a couple of these other guys talking about it. It’ll be good to get it over with. If it happens, it happens, but it’ll be really cool to be in the record book for that."

He averages more than three 3s for the season, meaning he could hit the mark against the Spartans or, if UH advances, in the second round against fourth-seeded Idaho on Thursday.

UH will also likely have at least one postseason game regardless of finish in the WAC tourney. If UH does not win four games in four days for the tourney title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth, signs point to the likelihood of a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament chaired by former UH coach Riley Wallace.

The CIT, in its third season, is below the NIT in prominence but offers the opportunity to host games against mid-major-caliber competition. The CIT increases its field from 16 to 24 this season.

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