The 2015-16 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, starting with the freshmen, moving on to the lone available transfer, and then wrapping up with the four returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.
Last year, we made a slight adjustment as to how we look at the players' upcoming season, and it seemed to work better, so we'll stick with the same three category headings this year:
What I Think We'll See
What I Want To See
What I Don't Want To See
With that out of the way, let's dig into the junior from Memphis....
Junior - #23 - Guard - 6'5" - 195 lb.
I'm going to need someone to explain something to me.
This is what CBS Sports' Matt Norlander wrote about Marquette in his Big East preview, emphasis mine:
Marquette is the last realistic candidate to expect to reach the NCAAs in the Big East this season, but I think NIT is much more likely. Name to know: Henry Ellenson who, I'm guessing, will be drafted into the NBA in 2017. (He could be one-and-done, but man it'd be really nice if he stayed for two.) Ellenson's a dynamic player with a beautiful blend of old- and new-school skills. Around him, Duane Wilson and Jajuan Johnson should have really solid years -- either player could wind up Big East Second Team come March. Luke Fischer is also a nice ingredient. Marquette's just not a program that stays down for long, and after a 13-19 season in Year No. 1 under Steve Wojciechowski, getting to/above .500 seems inevitable for 2015-16.
What in the what in the who in the where in the how
We're talking about the same Jajuan Johnson that got benched at Xavier last year, right? We're talking about the same Jajuan Johnson that had an offensive rating of 87.8 last year, according to KenPom? The same Jajuan Johnson that went nine straight games (including the one he was benched in) to open conference play without hitting a three point shot, going 0-15 in those games? 7 points, 3 rebounds in 22 minutes a game last year Jajuan Johnson? Started but only played 19 minutes in Monday night's exhibition against Valley City State, scoring 9 points and turning the ball over four times Jajuan Johnson?
What am I missing here? Someone explain it to me.
The Big East's coaches said that the best guards in the league this season are Kris Dunn, Kellen Dunham, D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Ryan Arcidiacono, Billy Garrett, Jalen Brunson, and Trevon Bluiett. Which one of those dudes is Jajuan Johnson playing better than this season? You tell me. I'm not trying to argue that he's bad and needs to be banned from the state of Wisconsin or anything like that. I'm trying to figure out how someone can look at Johnson's two years at Marquette and say "Hey, he could be one of the six best guards in the league and one of the 10 best players overall."
Explain it to me. I don't get it. Why does Draft Express think Johnson is the 20th best NBA Draft prospect in the league this season? Seriously. Where is this coming from?
What I Think We'll See
I think we're going to see a better Jajuan Johnson than we've seen in the past two years. He's been handcuffed by a coach that was doggedly determined to not play any of the youngsters in a season that was rapidly circling the drain during his freshman season. Johnson's sophomore campaign was marred by a whole mess of losing by the team along with what appeared to be a fairly serious misunderstanding between head coach Steve Wojciechowski and Johnson that led to Johnson's benching as mentioned above. Really, what I'm saying is that it pretty much can only get better from here for him.
Johnson has shown signs of being better. Yes, it was the Europe trip where things were kind of blown out of proportion because of gigantic margins of victory. But Johnson shot 15-21 on the trip. Yeah! 71%! I know, right? He also hit two of his three long ball attempts, which is awfully impressive from two perspectives: 1) Johnson's a career 24% three point shooter, which is heavily into "KNOCK IT OFF" territory, and 2) Johnson has been averaging two three-point attempts per game through his first two seasons, so seeing that number drop below one given his inability to drain shots on the regular is a-OK by me.
To head further down this three pointer road, Johnson hit two pretty snazzy looking corner threes during Marquette Madness. I mean snazzy looking both in terms of in the flow of the offense and also in terms of his shooting stroke. Johnson never had a good looking shot his first two seasons in Milwaukee, but it appears that someone on the coaching staff - or maybe several someones - have hammered out some of his issues to simplify his shot. Hopefully those mechanical issues do make him more accurate when the games become meaningful, as Johnson went 0-2 against Valley City State from long range.
What I Want To See
Look, I know I went on a tear to open this preview up. I know it was bordering on being mean. But a lot of people who generally have opinions that I respect have a completely different opinion and view of Jajuan Johnson than I do.
I want these people to be right.
I want Jajuan Johnson to live up to that four star recruiting ranking coming into Marquette two years ago. I want to see him show why he was a top 40 recruit in the 247 Sports Composite system. Show us why he was right up there with guys like Terry Rozier and Tyler Ennis, guys who have already made the leap to the NBA.
The space is there for him. Other than Duane Wilson, no one has anything really guaranteed to them in the backcourt and wing departments on this team. Presuming that Johnson and Wojo are on the same page now, there's really nothing stopping Johnson from making the leap and seizing a wide swath of minutes every single night out, especially if Marquette plays up and down like Wojciechowski keeps saying that he wants to play.
What I Don't Want To See
Maybe Johnson can't put it together. Maybe Buzz Williams is actually a lousy judge of talent and/or potential in 17 and 18 year olds. We've got a fair amount of evidence that points in that direction. Maybe Johnson peaked as a senior at Southwind High in Memphis. Maybe we've seen the most that we're going to get from Jajuan Johnson.
Maybe that's enough on this year's team. Maybe a bit player, filling in here and there is what this team needs. I don't think it's what Johnson is capable of, not in the slightest. I know we haven't seen much from him in two years, so I just hope that it's not all we're going to see.