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2016-17 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #23 Jajuan Johnson

Let’s all hope for heavy doses of #Top50Jajuan this season....

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-17 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one: First the freshmen, moving on to the two transfer players, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.

We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, today’s preview is the first for one of Marquette’s major contributors last season......

Jajuan Johnson

Senior - #23 - Guard - 6’5” - 205 lb.

Guys.

Guys.

Jajuan Johnson averaged 10 points and three rebounds against Big East opponents last year. He shot 54% from the floor and 45% on three pointers against conference foes.

That’s actually just the 17 league games he played and he missed one game and most of another after bonking his head on the floor against St. John’s. Johnson closed out the season with two ridiculous performances in the Big East tournament that averaged out to 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3.5 steals.

Yes, that included his career high in points (23) against St. John’s. But it was still a 48% shooting effort from the Memphis native, which converts to a 52% effective field goal percentage. He made all 16 (!) of his free throw attempts in the tournament.

Quite honestly, if head coach Steve Wojciechowski kept Johnson in cold storage like The Winter Soldier all summer long in an effort to keep him at that level, I would be okay with that.

Reasonable Expectations

Let’s be clear here: it’s probably unlikely that Johnson’s going to average 16/5/4/4 this season. That’s probably Big East Player of the Year worthy statistics, and while I like Johnson’s potential for this season, that’s probably asking a little bit too much from him. Not necessarily because he can’t do it, but if Marquette is going to really go 10 deep on a nightly basis, Johnson just won’t compile the minutes to get there.

Let’s look at it from just the tempo-free statistical view. If Johnson can repeat his 56.2% eFG%, his 16.7% assist rate, and his 3.7% steal rate, which was the 38th best in the country last year, then I think we’re all going to end up extremely happy with what happens. It’s the eFG% that’s probably the most important. Johnson shot 39% on three pointers last year. Given the lack of size on this roster, Marquette is going to need as much excellent three point shooting as possible to survive this season. 33% is the cutoff for efficiency and anything over 35% is taking care of business.

Why You Should Get Excited

16/5/4/4 is probably insane, but what if that’s close? What if it’s 12/3/3 with the occasional explosion where he leads the team and dominates the game? What if we get heavy doses of #Top50RecruitJajuan on a nightly basis? What if we finally see all that potential that Johnson has, night in and night out, and he edges his way towards all-Big East status at the end of the year?

The thing that should really excite you about Johnson’s upcoming final campaign is his defense. Each year at Marquette, his steal rate - not his average number of steals per game, the percentage of possessions that he ends with a steal - had gone up. He was #183 in the country as a sophomore, and blasted all the way up to #38 in the country last year. Now, maybe he can’t make it that high again, and maybe he can’t get much better than the 3.7%. That’s fine. However, if Wojo wants to play an attacking style of defense and look to force a lot of steals to alleviate some of the pressure on Luke Fischer/Matt Heldt/whatever poor sap is stuck picking up the slack defending in the post, then Johnson is your guy.

Steals = fast breaks = dunks. Everyone loves dunks. Be excited to see lots of dunks.

Potential Pitfalls

There is the possibility that what we saw at the end of last season was not, in fact, the light going on for Johnson. It’s possible that it was merely a hot streak. After all, even after the shooting he put up, he’s still only a career 29.6% three-point shooter. Statistically speaking, he’s more likely to be below that 33% efficiency cut-off mark this season as a long range shooter than he is to be over it, based on how things have gone in the past.

That would be really bad.

I don’t just mean for Johnson, I mean for Marquette. With the lack of size on this roster, MU needs to find points wherever they can get them. If he can’t hit from outside, Johnson’s usefulness will be limited to being a slasher. You’ll notice that his slashing to the basket got much better last season..... because opponents had to start taking his shooting seriously.