With the 2014-2015 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). Today we take a look at sophomore Jajuan Johnson.
#23 - Sophomore - 6'5" - 200 lb.
What I Think We'll See
Jajuan didn't get the starting nod in the exhibition against Wisconsin Lutheran, which probably makes sense, at least for the time being, with Matt Carlino on the roster, but Johnson was the first guy off the bench and ended up playing the most minutes (25) of the nine guys who saw action on Saturday.
I think "first guy off the bench" is probably where Johnson's going to slot for the first month (or so) of the season, and depending how cold Carlino is running, I think somewhere between 20-25 minutes per game is about what we can expect.
What I Want To See
Lots and lots and lots of Jajuan Johnson, progressively less Matt Carlino as the season progresses. I understand that Carlino has the experience and veteran savvy and et cetera, but he's a one-year player for a team that's, in all likelihood, going nowhere. Jajuan, on the other hand, could be the starting shooting guard for the next two seasons, so I'd be in favor of getting him all the run we can before Hank Ellenson gets to town.
In the same vein: recognizing that Derrick Wilson attempted like 50,000 3-pointers this summer (related: has anybody thought to ask how many he, y'know, made?), I'm going to be very sad if Carlino and Wilson attempt the bulk of Marquette's 3-pointers this season. Jajuan went 3-3 on triples against Cal State Fullerton last year, and I suck at math but that's 100% and they don't offer extra credit in basketball games so that's as well as you can possibly shoot and no, thank you, I don't give much of a shit about small sample sizes. As Robert Muldoon once screamed to a faceless minion in the opening scene of Jurassic Park: SHOOT HERRRRRR [Jajuan]. SHOOOOOT HERRRRRRR.
What I Don't Want To See
Jajuan getting yo-yo'd in and out of the lineup, ceding playing time to a cat who's not going to be on the roster next year, and ending up leaving Marquette for some place closer to Memphis. To summarize in two words: last year. Let's not do last year again.
The 2014-15 season was not the coming out party for Jajuan Johnson that most Marquette fans hoped it would be. After languishing on the pine for most of his freshman year, there were lots of people (present company included) that hoped Johnson was going to bust loose this season and fulfill the expectations that were bestowed on him when he arrived as a much ballyhooed recruit. It didn't quite shake out that way.
There were high points. Johnson got off on the right foot with a 20-point season opener against Tennessee-Martin. He led all scorers, with 19 points, in Marquette's win over North Dakota. He turned in an awesome, 22-point performance in MU's biggest non-conference win over Arizona State (yes, Arizona State, at #63 in KenPom, was our best non-conference win). Those will be the games that we try to remember when we dream about what Jajuan's ceiling might be.
There were also low points. Johnson struggled through an horrendous, mid-season shooting slump - that included a 3-13 performance against Providence and a 2-7 night against Georgetown - all the while playing sub-optimal defense. Those struggles saw Jajuan's minutes dwindle, and eventually culminated with him being benched for the game at Xavier. At that point no one was sure what that meant about Jajuan's relationship with Coach Wojo, and what his role on the team might be going forward. When you DNP a guy, despite having only 8 scholarship players, just to send a message, that's really sending a message. Everyone wondered how Jajuan would respond.
To his credit, Jajuan seemed to get that message. It didn't happen immediately, but he was able to get out of the doghouse and back onto the floor for the following game against St. John's. And when an injury to Matt Carlino forced Johnson back into the starting lineup against Seton Hall, he responded with his best game of the season and helped snapped the Golden Eagles' worst losing streak in... like, a hundred years.
What exactly was Wojo's message? I don't know, but I suspect it had something to do with shooting fewer 3-pointers. In the first 16 games of the season Johnson was a special kind of dreadful from behind the arc - shooting just 7 for 40 (17.5%). After his sit down, he seemed more judicious with his triples and far more intent on attacking the basket. Jajuan shot just 33 treys over the final 15 games, and made 9 of 'em (27.3%). While that isn't exactly Steph Curry stuff, it was a marked improvement from earlier in the season. I wish I had more numbers to illustrate how much more effective he was after his benching, but I really don't . The overall shooting percentage goes down in the second half, despite the change in his philosophy (I'm guessing not getting to play Tennessee-Martin and Morgan State and the like, has something to do with that). But watching him play, you could tell he wasn't content to settle for early threes anymore. And despite being more aggressive going to the basket, Jajuan's turnover numbers actually went down after the benching (more than a full TO per 40 min.).
So what does that all mean? I really don't know. But you paid for speculation, so it's speculation you'll get. I think it means that Wojo was able to get through to Jajuan this year. I think it means Jajuan is coachable, and committed to improving as a player. When he could have packed it in, and spent the rest of the year sulking, Jajuan seems to have decided to keep working to be as good as he can be. I think that's all positive stuff. And I think it's going to result in more highs and fewer lows for both Johnson and Marquette next year.
Best Game: On paper, the Arizona State game looks the best. But I think Johnson's best game was the road win over Seton Hall. After getting benched, and scuffling as he had, he re-emerged in that game with 14 points, on 5-10 shooting and filled the scoring void created by Carlino's injury. It was a big game for Jajuan and MU.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: The flashes were there, but so too were the struggles. In a lot of ways it was kind of what his freshman year might have been like if he had... you know..... played. So if the bottom bar is not to repeat last year, I'd say we avoided that. I'll give the season a 4, but trending upward.