Tariq Johnson is the epitome of the Cowboys basketball team, circa 2018-19.
He arrived on the campus of Wyoming last summer, one of six incoming freshmen on the roster, anxious to establish himself at the major college level.
Reality, however, set in.
On a team beset by serious injuries, Johnson is one of the injured, initially sidelined by what was suggested to be a heart problem that could end any hopes he had of college basketball, only to undergo further testing that provides reason for optimism.
Optimism, not for this season, mind you, but for the future. He is fully convinced that he will be a redshirt freshman for the Cowboy basketball team that next year will have that extra motivation of showing fans and the rest of the Mountain West just how much ability the Cowboys have on their basketball roster, even if a large chunk of that roster has not been a factor this season.
Not once in a regular season game have the Cowboys had the anticipated starting lineup on the court. Injuries have been such a factor that the Cowboys have been playing with seven scholarship players during the MW season, although possibly as early as Wednesday Jake Hendricks will return to the active roster.
Johnson appeared in nine games early in the season, leaving him within the limits that will allow him to claim a medical redshirt for this season. He averaged less than nine minutes a game, only twice reaching double figures in minutes played.
For a reason. . .
Johnson was fatigued. A family history of heart problems was a warning sign and led to initial concerns. After preliminary tests, Johnson began a series of tests with specialists, and he is now looking forward to his future on the hardwoods in Laramie.
Johnson said the feeling is he was reacting to adjusting to life at 7,220.
“It takes everyone a while to get used to the altitude, so it was more of that then the (heart) condition,” he said. “Once I changed my eating habits, taking more vitamins, drinking more water, I was better. It is just getting used to everything.
“When I first came Everybody said, `This isn’t sea level. Drink lots of water. Take more vitamins. Get more sleep. Just eating the right things and taking care of my body has helped me out.”
Teammate/roommate Trace Young, who came with Johnson from Mount Zion Prep School to Laramie, added, “I don’t think people realize how quick you get dehydrated here. Somewhere else you can go a day or two without drinking water. Here, you have to drink water. It’s can’t be Gatorade or soda. Trace and I went through a 48-packe of water in a week. It was crazy.”
And while Johnson hasn’t been on the court, he has been a part of the team. He is another set of eyes from the bench, eager to offer encouragement to his teammates.
“I practice and travel,” said Johnson. “I do little workouts. Right now, it’s a slow grind, but I am trying to help the guys out. I hate losing more than I like winning.”
He also is getting a better feel for the jump from Prep School to Division I basketball, and an insight to coach Allen Edwards and the Cowboys staff.
“I see (the situation) as a blessing in disguise,” said Johnson. “I got my fee wet early in the season, and I get a do over. Now I know what coach expects. Being on the sideline you get a difference perspective of what coach sees (than when you are on the court). “
Now, Johnson is anxious for next year so he can put to use on the court what he has learned from the sidelines.