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2019-20 Marquette Basketball Player Review: #34 Jayce Johnson

What can we say about MU’s grad transfer and his only season playing for the Golden Eagles

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 DePaul at Marquette
Jayce Johnson grabbing a rebound is the best picture to use for his player review.
Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2019-20 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of 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 the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means we move on to Marquette’s grad transfer on the roster this past season.......

Jayce Johnson

Graduate Transfer - #34 - 7’0” - 245 pounds - Mission Viejo, California

Jayce Johnson Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
27 14.7 1.4 2.3 62.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0.9 1.9 50.0% 2.2 3.6 5.7 0.4 0.1 0.6 2.5 3.8

Jayce Johnson Fancy Stats

ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
113.8 15.3% 10.9% 62.9% 60.1% 17.2% 25.1% 5.3% 20.4% 3.9% 0.3% 6.9 4.0 80.7%


Reasonable Expectations

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think Johnson can repeat his 7&7 performance from a year ago while wearing a Marquette uniform. He did that on relatively limited minutes, although the 22 per night is more of a tell to head coach Larry Krystowiak keeping Johnson coming off the bench to start the season than how Johnson ended up in the rotation at the end of the year.

If Johnson ends up playing the Ed Morrow role to Theo John’s starting center more often than not, then that would aim him towards about the same amount of minutes as Johnson played a year ago. There’s variance on that depending on how much foul trouble John gets into, but that’s an entirely different preview. At worst, if head coach Steve Wojciechowski is dedicated to playing two of his three big men together for regular intervals, that would ultimately mean more playing time for Johnson, it seems. Either way, if it’s merely playing about half the time opposite John or in a rotation on the floor with John and Morrow, seeing Johnson replicate last year’s output seems about right.

Why You Should Get Excited

I mean this in the nicest way possible about Jayce Johnson, so I don’t want to get any angry emails from anyone about this: Jayce Johnson is exactly the basketball player that we think he is, and we are almost assuredly going to get exactly the basketball player that we think we’re getting.

I don’t think it’s a gross overstatement to say that Joseph Chartouny did not work out as anyone had hoped as a grad transfer a year ago. His assist rate dropped significantly, his turnover rate shot all the way to the damn moon, and his steal rate — perhaps the major reason why we were all excited about his addition to the squad — was cut in half. By the time we got to February, Chartouny was down to playing single digits worth of minutes in games instead of being the regular contributing point guard partner to Markus Howard that we thought that we were going to see.

Jayce Johnson, on the other hand, excels at things that can’t vary no matter what kind of system you put him in. He’s big, he grabs the ball well, he swats opposing shots with enough regularity to make him a quality rim protector. That’s the kind of player he is, and that’s the kind of player that we’re going to get. You can make all the jokes about the futility of the Pac-12 that you want to make (oh, and we will), but Johnson averaged 7.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game last year in 16 conference games against a Pac-12 that had seven top 100 KenPom teams and three more between 100 and 115. These are numbers against quality competition coming in skills and departments that translate well to any Division 1 conference in the country.

I think Jayce Johnson ends up restoring our trust in grad transfers, as long as we remember to only trust them to play a supporting role on the team and not anything else.

Potential Pitfalls

On Sunday, Marquette beat Indiana in a secret closed scrimmage, 72-69. Go check out the box score from that contest in case you haven’t already.

In particular, let me direct your attention to Jayce Johnson’s line.

10 minutes, seven points, three rebounds, four fouls.

Last year, Jayce Johnson had a career best in fouls called per 40 minutes at 5.4. You will, of course, remember that college basketball players are only allowed five fouls per 40 minutes. 5.4 fouls per 40 minutes is not good, and that was the lowest that number has been for him in all three of his collegiate seasons.

Steve Wojciechowski’s plan of using two bigs together at the same time is dependent on one very key factor: Two of the three bigs being able to be on the floor due to a lack of fouls. Theo John racked up fouls to the tune of 7.4 per 40 minutes last year (!), and Ed Morrow was at 5.7 per 40 minutes.

Mix in Jayce Johnson’s stats from his time in Utah, and hoooooooooooboy that is a cocktail asking to cause a problem. Wojciechowski is attempting to create a game plan that miiiiiight just be completely doomed if his guys can’t stay on the floor, and that’s the biggest hurdle for Johnson’s success at Marquette.

There were two different segments of Jayce Johnson’s lone season at Marquette, and we can divide them in that fashion in a couple of different ways. It depends on how you want to look at it. The obvious one is that Jayce Johnson was asked to play a bigger role on the roster after Ed Morrow left the squad after four Big East games. From the moment when Morrow was no longer available, Johnson went from averaging 3.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game to 4.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game.

The other way we can look at things is through the lens of Johnson’s early season knee injury. He missed Marquette’s first two games, and then played just six and four minutes in each of the next two contests. It’s unclear when Johnson finally started feeling comfortable on the floor. He would play in double digit minutes in the next four games, but then his minutes became more sporadic over the next six games, including a DNP at home against Villanova. After that, he was a regular contributor to the rotation almost every night.

Now, as you’ve noticed with the mention of Villanova, Johnson’s ascension to a regular rotation player is nearly perfectly matched up with Morrow’s departure. It’s unclear as to whether Johnson was already stealing minutes from Morrow, who only played single digit minutes in each of his final three games in a Marquette uniform. It certainly looks that way, of course. It’s then entirely possible that Johnson’s absorption of minutes is what led to Morrow’s departure from the squad to some extent, and thus his increasing health was part of what provoked him needing to play even more minutes.

Yeah, I know, it’s a lot to think about.

The point of all of this is that when games started getting a lot more serious for Marquette, the Golden Eagles kept getting quality outings from Jayce Johnson. In addition to the pure statistical output that we saw from him, it was also incredibly clear whenever he was on the floor that he was putting everything he had into playing for Marquette. I’m not trying to say that there are guys who aren’t giving it everything they have every night or every possession, but there are some guys who just physically appear to be trying as hard as possible all the time. Jayce Johnson is one of those guys. I don’t know if it’s nice or even fair to a former top 100 prospect like Johnson to call him a lunch pail/hard hat kind of guy, but that’s absolutely what he looked like on the court, and it’s hard to knock a guy who is putting that much fight into playing basketball.

I think the best example of this is Marquette’s final three games of the season. Look. They were bad. There’s no getting around this. The team trailed by 24 points with 11 minutes to go, needed a 12-2 run to take a seven point lead with nine minutes to play that they eventually blew, and then fell behind 12-0 out of the gate before trailing by as many as 21 before halftime even rolled around. It was all no good.

But Johnson was great.

No one was asking for big point outings from Jayce Johnson, not on this particular Marquette teams. So scoring outputs of four, five, and six points? Not world destroying, obviously, but all three were above the season average for him, so that’s good. Where Johnson had the biggest impact in those three games was in the one place where we knew that Jayce Johnson could absolutely impact the season for Marquette: Rebounding. Can I interest you in a guy who averaged — averaged — 11 rebounds a game while only averaging 20.3 minutes? That’s insane. When the season was very much on the line for Marquette, Johnson was averaging a rebound every 111 seconds on the floor.

There was a lot of talk from the coaching staff that they were disappointed the season ended by way of coronavirus most of all for Johnson, who ends his collegiate career without an NCAA tournament appearance. While we could all see Johnson’s effort pouring off of him all season long to this point, it was clear through his play on the court that it was important to Johnson to go out on a high note. He did everything he could do to get Marquette to victories in those final three games. There’s no doubt of that. Johnson wanted to nail down that NCAA tournament bid for the Golden Eagles. We can’t ignore the fact that he was, with the exception of Markus Howard, the only Golden Eagle that we can point to as closing the season as strong as possible this past year, and that counts for something.

Best Game: I know I just spent a lot of time praising Johnson for his performances in the final three games of the season. However, I wanted to focus on what he was doing in the losses to highlight how good he was. The game before that, the home game against Georgetown, deserves notice, too. Johnson had nine points and 11 rebounds in that one, and Marquette spent most of the final minutes of that 21 point win desperately trying to get him one final bucket or even trip to the line to get him to a double-double. He would ultimately not get there, and thus finished the season without one.

However, I want to actually point at a different game as his best of the season. I think we can make an argument that Jayce Johnson may have single-handedly turned the course of the National Marquette Day game against Butler in favor of the Golden Eagles. Let me explain:

With 6:09 to go, Brendan Bailey hit a three to put Marquette up 17, their largest margin of the game to that point. It was the third of three straight triples from the Golden Eagles, thus turning an eight point game that had been hovering around a 10 point margin since halftime into something of a strong MU advantage. However, Butler wasn’t going to go away quietly, and a pair of Bryce Nze free throws trimmed the lead to 13, and Henry Baddley snagged a steal from Markus Howard to give Butler the ball back.

Then this happened — Defensive rebound by Johnson, on which he was fouled by Nze. Splits his free throws. On the other end, Johnson rejects Nze in the lane and comes up with the loose ball for another defensive rebound. After half the shot clock winds off, Steve Wojciechowski calls timeout, and apparently Butler head coach LaVall Jordan elected to start playing Hack-A-Jayce with under four minutes to go. Bryce Golden fouls Johnson five seconds after the timeout ends, and Johnson cans both freebies. On the other end, Johnson rejects Golden in the lane, although the ball goes out of bounds, and ultimately Kamar Baldwin scores. 12 seconds into MU’s possession, Jordan Tucker fouls Johnson, who again cans both freebies.

65 seconds of clock elapsed since Baddley’s steal on Howard. In that stretch, Johnson recorded two blocks, two defensive rebounds, and sank five of six free throw attempts. Marquette’s lead was sitting at 16 with 3:21 to go. Howard would provide the dagger on MU’s next possession, but it was Johnson damn near singlehandedly giving Howard the chance to stick it to the Bulldogs.

Am I giving this game the notice on Johnson’s best game of the season expressly because I think LaVall Jordan is a dirty coach and playing Hack-A-Jayce down double digits with under four minutes to play was an absolute garbage tactic, even if Johnson was just a 50% free throw shooter on the year? No, that’s not the only reason, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cackle about Jayce shoving it in Jordan’s face with the four straight made freebies.

Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Unfortunately, we have to gauge things by what we wrote in the preview, and the fact of the matter is that Johnson did not live up to the 7 & 7 standards that we thought was possible for him at the start of the season. However, we can’t ignore how much effort Johnson put into the season, especially after suffering an injury to start things off. We also can’t ignore the fact that Johnson was legitimately great at his job when the season was on the line, and that’s something that we can’t say about every single Golden Eagle on the roster. So, with all of that in mind, I’m going to give Johnson a 7 as his season grade. He did what he was capable of, and he did a hell of a job of it, and he got better as the season went along and/or he got further along with his rehab. I can’t give him a grade better than that because he didn’t blow us away based on preseason expectations, but I really feel like I can’t go lower than that, either.