Five Point Play V7: A look at DJO

Marquette Tribune File Photo

After two impressive seasons playing sidekick to Lazar Hayward and then Jimmy Butler, senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom has finally entered the spotlight as the go-to scorer for the No. 21 Marquette Golden Eagles.

Johnson-Odom, a preseason First Team All-Big East selection, exploded onto the scene in 2009, his first year with Marquette, averaging 13.0 points and connecting on over 47 percent of his three-pointers as a sophomore.

While his percentages were down in 2010 (43 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from downtown), Johnson-Odom still enjoyed a season that culminated in a Second Team All-Big East selection.

A highly successful offseason working with some of the NBA’s greats has Johnson-Odom in perfect position to lead the Golden Eagles on another Sweet 16 run come March.

1. Will Johnson-Odom’s three point shooting percentage this year be closer to his sophomore or junior year numbers?

**Johnson-Odom shot 47.4 percent from three his sophomore year, and 36.4 percent a year ago**

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: To take the easy way out, right in the middle. That would put him right at 42 percent from three, which would have been seventh best in the Big East a year ago. Johnson-Odom won’t replicate his sophomore numbers but he has improved enough this offseason to shoot above 40 percent. Defenses will try and stop him, but DJO gets the shot he wants.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Sophomore year, but not quite as good. That year his only role was to stand behind the arc and wait for a kick-out. As a pure spot up shooter with space, he is as deadly as they come. However, he will not get that kind of space this year and doesn’t have the liberty to wait for kick-outs for his offense. He won’t shoot as poorly as last year though, guarantee it.

Anonymous Eagle: Realistically, you’d have to say his three-point percentage will be closer to the junior year number. That 47 percent from the 09-10 season was just absurd, and it was powered by having Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan draining threes all around him, so expecting him to be in that neighborhood is asking a lot. When you factor in the defensive attention that DJO will garner this year – something that was definitely not present his sophomore season – the best we can hope for is just improvement on last year’s numbers.

Cracked Sidewalks: DJO has delivered a pair of terrific seasons for Marquette. I don’t understand this perception that his overall play suffered year-to-year. As a junior his usage increased from 23% to 26%. Despite shooting worse from behind the arc and carrying more of the offense, his Offensive Rating (ORtg) of 106.8 was almost identical to the 107 he delivered as a sopohomore. How well DJO shot from behind the arc had very little impact on his overall game last year, and we expect it will have little impact this year.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: The three-point shooting numbers will fall in between his junior year (36.4 percent) and his sophomore (47.4 percent) year. But DJO will shoot around 40 percent from three-point land this year. He has a nice touch from outside. DJO claims he’s not a three-point shooter and many scouting reports suggest his three-point shooting will continue to decline. Don’t believe the latter.

2. Johnson-Odom said he wants to reach five rebounds and five assists per game this season. Which is more realistic, and can he get to that number?
**Johnson-Odom averaged 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game last year**

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: The rebounds are more realistic, and he will hit that mark this season. Johnson-Odom has been quite average defensively in his first two years with the Golden Eagles, yet still managed to average 3.0 boards per game last year. If he is serious about “whole-ing” his game and taking it to another level in 2011 (I believe him), five rebounds should happen. He certainly has the athleticism, now we get to see if he wants it.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Five rebounds is more realistic, but he will get to neither. There’s no chance he gets to five assists per game because no Golden Eagle even reached four last season. As for the rebounds, I think it is possible to increase his total by two per game, but not probable. This team doesn’t need him to be a Mr. Everything, they need him to score and score often.

Anonymous Eagle: Rebounds would be the more likely choice. Buzz has always asked his guards to contribute to the rebounding efforts, especially on the defensive glass, and I think DJO will get the chance to increase his numbers this year. He averaged 3 a game last year, so getting that up to 5 seems more the more likely of the two. While increasing assists would show a terrific ability to draw defenders and find the open man, 5 assists a game would have him on the border of the top 5 averages in the Big East based on last year’s assist leaders.

Cracked Sidewalks: Rebounds. DJO is not a combo guard so distribution isn’t part of the job description. With his athletic ability and frame, DJO very well could be a force on the glass.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Realistically, DJO can get five rebounds, but not five assists. As the team’s No. 1 offensive threat, his focus on the offensive end will be creating for himself or others creating opportunities for him. More rebounds can come just from sheer effort on the offensive and defensive ends which makes the five rebounds much more likely.

3. True or false: Johnson-Odom will have a better statistical season than Jerel McNeal’s senior year.
**In his senior year, McNeal averaged 19.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3.9 apg**

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: False. The way that 2008 team ended their season (Lazar, watch out for the line!) really put a damper on the magical season McNeal had. A second team All-American, McNeal filled up the box score on offense and read passing lanes better than anyone in the league, finishing fourth in steals (2.1). Johnson-Odom should have a bigger impact than McNeal did his senior season, but the numbers will not match. McNeal was incredible.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: False. I hate to be a Debbie downer on all of these questions, but I simply don’t think Marquette has enough offensive weapons around him. McNeal averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 boards and 3.9 assists per game. That team had so many offensive options around Jerel though, that it freed him up from being double teamed a lot of the time. I have to stop talking about that 2008 team though, thinking about what could have been had Dominic James not gone down is too depressing.

Anonymous Eagle: False. Jerel McNeal’s senior year was something special – he averaged nearly 20 pts (19.8), 4.5 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals a game. DJO may have a chance to score in that 19ppg range, but we don’t think he is going to fill the stat sheet the same way that Jerel did. In McNeal’s junior season, while his scoring numbers weren’t as lofty (14.9), the rest of his numbers (4.9 reb/3.5 ast/2.2 stl) were nearly the same as his senior year stats. I expect Darius to be very good, but I don’t think there’s anything in his first two seasons to expect him to put up numbers like Jerel did.

Cracked Sidewalks: Last year, DJO was already comparable to anything McNeal delivered. During McNeal’s senior season his ORtg was 108.6 (at a 28% usage) while DJO turned in an ORtg of 106.8 (on 26% usage) as a junior. A question we like even more is how close DJO will come to Kemba Walker’s senior season? Maybe it’s crazy, but consider that Walker’s ORtg his sophomore and junior years was 106.8 (20% usage) and 105.3 (24% usage). NOT saying that DJO will be as successful as Kemba, but maybe he comes close.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: I’ll call it a wash. DJO will average 20 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. DJO is like a cross between McNeal and Wes Matthews. He’s smaller, in height, like McNeal but is built more like Matthews than he is McNeal. He can play a more physical brand of basketball against bigger 2-guards but can also play a more finesse style too.

4. What percent chance do you give Johnson-Odom of winning the Big East Player of the Year award?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: 15 percent. UConn’s Jeremy Lamb is going to be leading a team that will be ranked in the top 10 for much of the season, Ashton Gibbs already has the preseason accolade and Kris Joseph will have the attention of every East coast sportswriter, simply because of the name on his jersey. Johnson-Odom will really have to explode in 2011, leading the league in points and helping Marquette to a top 3 finish, to even have a chance. Both are possible.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: 5 percent. If the name on the front of the jersey said UConn or Syracuse I would bump this up to 30, but it doesn’t. I’m not saying there is a bias against Marquette, but simply it takes a historic season to garner the media attention given to a merely good player at one of those schools. As such, he would need to average somewhere near 22 points, 6 boards and 5 dimes to get the nod. The chances of that happening are not good.

Anonymous Eagle: He’s on the preseason All-Big East first team so that tells us that he’s expected to be one of the best players in the conference. And (if you choose to ignore Tim Abromaitis like we do) there are four other players on that list. That gives DJO a 20% chance of being the player of the year. Since Syracuse’s Kris Joseph is going to have to deal with the walking turnover that is Scoop Jardine (Hey, remember this? THAT WAS AWESOME.), we’ll give DJO half of his chances and say 30%.

Cracked Sidewalks: The East Coast Bias is real. 15%.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Fifteen percent. DJO plays in the toughest conference in college basketball. And with that comes a group of extremely talented players. Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs should be the favorite in the preseason but there’s still UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Louisville’s Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine. DJO will be in the discussion for sure, but there’s too much talent in the Big East to go above 15 percent.

5. What aspect of Johnson-Odom’s game needs to improve most in order for Marquette to replicate last season’s success?

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: His free throw shooting. DJO’s style of play, and he will need to be even more aggressive this year, is hurt by his low free throw shooting numbers (71.4 percent last year). Marquette’s scoring threats off the bench (or lack thereof) scare me, meaning DJO will have to carry a large scoring load each night. It’s something he’s capable of doing, but improving his free throw percentage to 76 or 77 percent will make it that much easier.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Attentiveness. DJO has a tendency to be a streaky scorer, hiding away at times before unleashing an outburst of buckets. Last year’ game at Connecticut is the perfect example of this, doing nothing for 38 minutes before putting on the hero’s cape. This season, DJO must be alert from the tip-off and not wait for a moment to turn it on. He must be aggressive from the get-go if this team is to replicate last season’s results.

Anonymous Eagle: Consistency is the key for Johnson-Odom this year. Mr. Kensington always uses the word “combustible” to describe him. That’s because he’s been capable of erupting for large amounts of points in short periods of time. But that also means there were stretches where he was somewhat invisible. Remember last year, for most of the pre-conference schedule, we were all asking, “Where is DJO?” The hope is he can eliminate those ineffective stretches and maximize those hot streaks. If he can mitigate those ineffective stretches by committing to the defensive side of the court, it might actually help him get going on the offensive end. Nothing says “streakbreaker” like a huge breakaway dunk.

Cracked Sidewalks: Defense. Marquette was an abominable defensive team on the perimeter last season, 248th in the nation at stopping the three. Moreover, the team often failed to keep opposing guards out of the lane, and its best perimeter defender, Jimmy Butler, moved on to the NBA. It is time for MU to re-establish a culture of lockdown defense and DJO needs to lead that charge.

Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: His defensive prowess. DJO even said so. Coach Buzz Williams said that at media day (Oct. 14). He wants DJO to guard the other team’s DJO. And if can DJO hold his counterpart to half of his scoring total, that’s when Buzz said DJO will become a great player.

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