With the 2013-2014 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). Today's contestant is freshman guard Jajuan Johnson.
#5 - Freshman - 6'2" - 185 lb.
Minimum Expectation: I don't know if you've heard, but there are minutes to be had in the Marquette backcourt this year. With the graduation of Junior Cadougan, the departure of Vander Blue to the professional ranks, the injury to Duane Wilson, and the fact that Todd Mayo can be... umm... how shall I say.... unpredictable, there figures to be plenty of opportunity for Johnson to crack the backcourt rotation this season. Despite the lofty pedigree, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that he will have a MAJOR impact in his freshman season. Because, as we all know, Coach Buzz tends to bring the frosh along slowly. However, I fully expect Jajuan to be a contributor this year and I hope to see flashes of brilliance to make me giddy about what is to come.
In My Wildest Dream: I'm wrong. Jajuan Johnson's brilliance doesn't come in mere flashes, it comes in bucketfuls. In this scenario, he seizes the opportunity presented to him and makes it impossible for Buzz to take him off the floor. He becomes the impact freshman that we haven't seen since.... Dominic James? Travis Diener? Wardle? I'm not even sure.
My Worst Nightmare: Johnson is your standard issue freshman. He has a few moments in the preseason, but like most freshman, he doesn't do the little things (see: play defense) well enough for Buzz to trust him once the real season begins. Then he is banished to the bench for the latter part of the season, and we are forced to wait until next year to see what he can really do.
Clearly, the hype from the recruiting trail that followed Jajaun to Milwaukee created some lofty expectations. When writing the minimum expectation back in October, I had in mind Vander Blue's freshman year - 19 minutes, 5 points per game; some awesome moments, some not so awesome moments; dwindling minutes throughout conference play, but always a place in the rotation. For some reason, that just never came to be.
To the frustration of many Marquette fans, Johnson's season was never really able to get out of neutral. This was largely due to the fact that he was rarely able to get onto the court. Even with the well documented struggles of the other MU guards, JJJ never became a permanent fixture in Buzz Williams' rotation. He saw some time early on. He got garbage time run in preseason cupcake blowouts. But, with the exception of three "Erik Williams" starts (while Buzz was grasping at straws on the rotation), Johnson was MIA once the calendar flipped to 2014. He notched 9 DNPs from January 4th on. And outside of those three token starts, he averaged just 4.4 minutes per game - including the 14 minutes he played in the loss at Xavier.
Now there are a couple of possible explanations for TreyJay's lack of run this year. First, he did suffer a sprained ankle back on January 15. There weren't a ton of details released about the extent of the injury, but we do know that he was "literary on crutches." It is possible that the effects of that injury could have lingered and continued to hamper him throughout the rest of the season.
Also, he was playing behind Jake Thomas and Todd Mayo. Thomas (like it or not) was the only credible outside shooting threat on a team that was desperate for ways to create more space to operate inside. Johnson showed that he was able to knock down the occasional triple (9 of 31, 29%), but he is more of an attack the basket kind of guy at this stage. I'm not sure that having another one of those on the floor really made the most sense for this year's team. Meanwhile, Todd's emergence as a go-to getter of baskets, in the latter half of the conference season, probably eroded some of the opportunity that could have been there for Jajuan as well.
And as it is any time there is a top 40 recruit not getting the floor time that he - or more accurately, WE - think he should be getting, there has been speculation about Johnson's future as a Golden Eagle. I have not heard any credible rumors that JaJuan will be looking to transfer, but you never know. Perhaps the coaching change could impact his feelings on the program (for better or worse). We'll just have to stay tuned. And while it is a bit confounding that the minutes weren't there for the freshman this year, I'm hopeful he will be sticking around at Marquette for another season. I still think he could do big things in blue and gold.
Best Game: I didn't actually get to see it, but the game of the year for TreyJay had to be against Cal State Fullerton in the opener of the Wooden Legacy (at least I think that was the first game, I'm still not entirely sure how that whole thing went). The young fella got loose for a season high 18 points, on 6-8 shooting, 3-3 from distance, 3 assists and no turnovers, in the MU's romp over the Titans.
Season Grade (1-Worst Nightmare to 10-Wildest Dream): I hate to be a Negative Nancy here, but I'd say the 2013-2014 campaign played out an awful lot like my Worst Nightmare. So I guess we have to say it's a 1.