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Nevada alum Jazz Johnson will stay in Italy, signs with Pistoia Basket

Jazz Johnson
Jazz Johnson is entering his second season in Italy. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)

Wolf Pack basketball alum Jazz Johnson, who began his professional career in Italy last season, will remain in the country and play for A.S. Pistoia Basket 2000 in 2021-22.

The club announced the move earlier this week. It plays in Serie A2 Basket, the second tier of basketball in Italy. Last season, Johnson played for Cantù in Serie A, Italy's top level. There are 27 teams in Serie A2 Basket compared to 16 in Serie A. Johnson is the first American player to sign with Pistoia for the upcoming season.

For Cantù, Johnson averaged 10.9 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. He appeared in 29 contests and shot 42.1 percent from the field, including 40.6 from three. He made 95.3 percent of his free throws. His career high as a pro was 26 points against Brescia.

"I am thrilled to play for a historic club and honored to arrive in a city where Kobe Bryant played for years as a child," Johnson said in a Google translated press release from the Italian club. "Furthermore, I am very pleased to be at the disposal of Coach (Nicola) Brienza because a good relationship was born since we played against each other in Serie A. His presence was decisive in my choice to come to Pistoia.

"I (will) really like playing (for him with the) team idea he has in mind for next season, not to mention the fact that he is a manager with a great attachment to his players and a remarkable talent in making them grow and improve throughout the year. I only heard great things about the organization, about the city and, above all, about the fans, so I'm really happy to join the red and white family. My goal is simply to try to win as much as possible to bring Pistoia to the top."

Pistoia finished eighth out of 13 teams in the Serie A2/Group Red standings last year with an 11-13 record.

“As soon as this possibility opened, we jumped on him and I am happy that the director, Marco Sambugaro, managed to close the deal," Pistoia coach Nicola Brienza. "I have a wonderful memory of Johnson as an opponent. Last year I saw in him so much quality, great potential and competitive spirit to sell despite having lived his first season overseas in a complex context. He has all the credentials to become an important player in Europe, and I hope that with the Pistoia shirt he can explode definitively.

"As far as we are concerned, he represents a good fit with the other players on the roster: I wanted two outsiders capable of effectively playing pick'n'roll and with him and (Italian guard Lorenzo) Saccaggi I can only be satisfied. Jazz can create advantages for himself but also for his teammates. He is an excellent 3-point shooter and will certainly catalyze the attention of the defenses, creating space for the others."

Johnson, who played for Nevada from 2017-19 and was recently a coach at the Martin Twins youth basketball camp, is the second Wolf Pack player to sign with an Italian team this offseason. Jordan Caroline inked a deal with Dolomiti Energia Trentino, which plays in Serie A.

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