With the 2015-2016 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). With today's entry, we start moving into the department of guys who had a significant impact on the team.....
#23 - Junior - 6'5" - 195 lb.
* - denotes top 500 national ranking
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.
Go ahead: Tell me something about Jajuan Johnson's junior season that wasn't enjoyable. I dare you. Dig through box scores, look at game logs, pull up a collection of highlights on YouTube, rewatch all the games off your DVR. Find me something about his season that wasn't at a minimum fun to watch.
I think your only answer to that would be Johnson banging his head on the floor in the home game against St. John's after just 10 minutes (Marquette won, 81-75) and as a result, missed the road trip to Villanova (Marquette lost, 83-68 after falling behind 18-4 out of the gate). Maaaaaybe you could argue that he had a shaky start to the season, but this is my counter-argument to that:
- First 12 games: 19.9 minutes, 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 55% on 2s, 32% on 3s, 46% overall shooting
- 17 games of Big East schedule: 25.2 minutes, 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 57% on 2s, 45% on 3s, 54% overall shooting
In short, Johnson took on a bigger role as the season advanced and rewarded head coach Steve Wojciechowski for his confidence in him with the easily the best run of Johnson's collegiate career.
Remember last year, when we had to lament Johnson going the first nine games of the Big East schedule without hitting a three pointer, and only a 2-3 outing against Villanova prevented it from being the first 12 games? This season, Johnson had just six games where he didn't hit a three pointer against a Big East opponent, and that includes MU's two games in the conference tournament, and that includes the St. John's and Villanova games where he was hampered by his injury. I don't know if it was assistant coach Brett Nelson, who is still Florida's all time three point shooting champ, or Travis Diener, or one of the other coaches, but someone ironed out all the weird mechanics in Johnson's jumper, and he is now a lethal option from behind the arc.
This option is made even more dangerous by the fact that Johnson has figured out out to take it to the rim nearly at will as well. It became a regular occurrence for #Top50RecruitJajuan to emanate from the Anonymous Eagle Twitter (y'all are following, right?) because Johnson was doing something remarkably athletic and physical to get Marquette a bucket.
This is all just talking about his offensive game. His defense was borderline ridiculous. Take a look at the Fancy Math stat line up top. You see the two categories that got marked as top 500? Johnson actually finished #38 in the country in steal rate. THIRTY-EIGHTH! There were only 37 guys anywhere in America that played at least 40% of their team's minutes that ended up ending a higher percentage of possessions with a takeaway. Think about that! On top of that, Johnson was leading the charge for Marquette in their quest to eliminate opponent's free throws. His 2.7 fouls called per 40 minutes rate was the best on the team and ranked him amongst the top 375 players in the country in that category. You'd think that a guy who was ridiculously adept at yoinking the ball away from the other team would end up being a little bit foul prone because he's not going time that jump into the passing lane perfect every single time, or because a swipe at a drive to the rim goes slightly astray and turns into a hack. Nope, not Jajuan Johnson. He's making a habit of cleanly lifting the ball from the opposition.
Best Game: Well, this is kind of difficult, because he didn't have one big standout game. KenPom awarded Johnson MVP honors in two games: Grambling State, where he finished with 20 points and missed just one shot out of a combined nine attempts from the field and the free throw line in just 19 minutes, and Stetson, where he got 22 points on 8-14 shooting and tacked on six rebounds, an assist, and a steal. As could be expected for a guy who finished with an offensive rating over 109, he had a bunch of games in the 120s and 130s, but ultimately, I think we need to go with his career best scoring day because of when it happened. Johnson went for a collegiate best 23 points against St. John's in the first round of the Big East tournament, getting there on a 7-13 shooting night. He also was a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe, grabbed five rebounds, dished four assists, and snagged five steals to help Marquette persevere for the 101-93 victory over the Red Storm and keep MU's quarterfinal appearance streak alive.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Well, I don't know about you guys, but it definitely seems to me that Johnson made The Leap this year. Yeah, okay, he wasn't a megawatt superstar, but 2015-16 was definitely head and shoulders above his first two seasons at Marquette. That's all you can ever really ask from a college player: Keep getting better every year. He fixed his shooting issues from previous years, and that threat might have helped free him up on the offensive end to start looking more like the kid who was once one of the best high school players in the country. Johnson has figured out how to execute what Wojo wants from him, to the point where the coaching staff was actually drawing up plays coming out of timeouts for him this season.
I have to ding him a little bit for the shaky start to the season (7 minutes against Jackson State? Missed 10 of his first 12 three point attempts?), but as the season progressed, he just kept getting better and better. I'm going to give Johnson an 8 for this season, and I look forward to seeing how he closes out his collegiate career next year.