With the 2016-2017 season now in the books, let’s take a few moments 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), which means next up is the third and final senior on the roster.....
#23 - Senior - 6’5” - 205 lb.
Jajuan Johnson Traditional Stats
Jajuan Johnson Fancy Stats
(** - denotes top 500 rank via KenPom.com)
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.
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.
Ok, so back in November, we were kicking around theoretical stat lines for Jajuan Johnson. He closed the previous season with a run of 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a shade over three steals per game. That seemed unlikely to continue, so we dialed that back to a much more realistic 12 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
What did we get?
12 points, four rebounds, and a TEAM LEADING 2.7 assists per game.
I believe, as the kids say, I had that one.
Is it safe to say that we saw a fully realized Jajuan Johnson in 2016-17? We got to see collegiate highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, as well as bests in defensive rebounding rate, assists rate, block rate, steal rate (he ranked SEVENTEENTH in the country!), fouls called/40 minutes, and fouls drawn/40. That is one hell of a final college season for the Memphis native who came to Marquette with a 247 Sports Composite ranking of #33 in his back pocket.
As great as Johnson was through the length and breadth of the season, it wasn’t a completely flawless performance. We do have to talk about the two times that head coach Steve Wojciechowski yanked him from the starting lineup. The first one lasted two games after Marquette went 0-2 at the 2K Classic in New York. Johnson responded with 17/5/3 averages in the next two contests while playing 20 minutes each against IUPUI and Houston Baptist, and thus, he was back in the starting lineup in the next game. He stayed there until Wojo jumbled the lineup following the road loss to Georgetown, when the entire rotation got thrown out the window in an effort to save the season, and only popped back in to start on Senior Day.
Here’s the thing about that, though. While Luke Fischer and Haanif Cheatham both continued their roles with the team off the bench in the National Marquette Day game against Xavier, Johnson didn’t. He sat that one out completely, which was attributed at the time to a coaching decision by Wojo. Now, given how that game played out — Marquette went up 21-2 early and never led by less than 10 the rest of the game — you could say that MU just didn’t need Johnson to play because the game was well in hand. On the flipside, both Matt Heldt and Luke Fischer fouled out of that game, while Duane Wilson and Katin Reinhardt were holding four fouls by the end of the game. Johnson still didn’t get off the bench. He ended up playing 20+ minutes in all but one of Marquette’s final six games, but the fact remains that with the season on the line, Wojo went with the decision to bench Johnson.
We should probably circle back around to the Potential Pitfalls section from Johnson’s season preview. As discussed at the time, part of why Johnson was so effective attacking the rim as a junior was because he also shot 38.5% on three-pointers. It’s hard to defend a guy who is absolutely going to destroy you on the dribble if you defend his shot, and if you let him shoot, he’s going to shred you that way, too. That’s what Johnson was as a junior, and it was imperative for him to be at least a reasonably effective shooter once again. He did just that, nearly matching his junior year mark by draining 38.1% of his career high 84 long range attempts. Now, he wasn’t as blisteringly hot in league play as a senior (38.5%) as he was in his junior campaign (44.8%), but considering that he had a bevy of teammates popping in treys on the regular, that wasn’t that much of a requirement for Johnson. As long as he was keeping defenders honest, and 38% definitely does that, Johnson was doing enough to make sure he was as effective as possible on offense.
Best Game: This isn’t a knock on him, but I’m pretty sure his best game of the season was the opener against Vanderbilt. 21 points, four rebounds, three assists, and a season high six (!) steals as the Golden Eagles scored a 95-71 victory that kind of turned into an important RPI win by the end of the season. He also shot 9-for-13 in the game, including a stellar 3-of-5 from long range in a preview of the kind of great shooting that we could expect to see from Johnson all season long.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1 to 10: Ok, so let’s break it down. We wanted to see him maintain his shooting, passing, and thefts, and he improved on the last two while staying in the neighborhood on the first one. Johnson was able to recapture at least a solid section of the hot streak that he ended his junior year on, and assembled a senior year stat line that anyone in their right mind would be pretty happy to see. He also proved that his junior year shooting wasn’t an aberration. These are all good things and should mean he gets a great grade. However, we can’t ignore the two times that Wojo pulled him from the starting lineup in an effort to send whatever message it was that he needed to send, and we definitely can’t ignore the fact that Johnson was nailed to the damn bench with the season on the line. I’m going to give him an 8. Johnson was too good to go any lower regardless of the coaching decisions that put him on the bench.