Player breakdown: Darius Johnson-Odom

This is part of  Paint Touches’ series breaking down each players’s 2011-2012 campaign and looking forward to next year. A big thank you to assistant coach Aki Collins, who provided exclusive, in-depth analysis on each player.

What he did well: Darius Johnson-Odom came into his senior season expected to finally be the go-to player after playing second fiddle to Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler his first two seasons. That wasn’t the case, as Jae Crowder stole the spotlight, but Johnson-Odom again was a fantastic No. 2, as seen by his honorable mention All-American nod.

Johnson-Odom was a model of consistency scoring the ball. Excluding the West Virginia game in which Johnson-Odom was suspended for the first half, he scored 17 or more points in all but one conference game. He made at least one 3-pointer in each Big East contest and made over 76 percent of his free throws, almost six percentage points higher than a year ago.

If Junior Cadougan was the motor that made Marquette’s fast break offense go, Johnson-Odom was the one driving the car. His ability to finish with either hand, play above the rim and draw contact helped him attempt a team-high 165 free throws. By all accounts, he was the perfect scorer for Buzz Williams’ offense.

What he could have done better: Johnson-Odom’s on-court leadership can not be questioned, but he was suspended for the Northern Colorado game and the first half of a crucial game at West Virginia. Marquette won both games, and Johnson-Odom was the key to the second half comeback against the Mountaineers. But the two suspensions were not what anyone wanted to see from a team’s senior leader, regardless of reason.

Johnson-Odom said one of his goals was to average five rebounds and five assists per game. He fell short of both goals, and never really made a difference in either categories. His 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game are nothing to scoff at, but there were times Johnson-Odom could have taken over games and didn’t. His scoring numbers speak volumes to the year he had, but he didn’t improve much from his junior year numbers in rebounds (3.0) or assists (2.4).

Aki’s analysis: “I think, at some point next year or the following year, people will really, really understand the magnitude of the type of impact Darius had on our team and on our program,” Collins said. “For a guy who finished 11th in career scoring only being here three years, he was 4th in career 3-pointers made, 8th in 3-pointers attempted, so he shot a higher clip,” Collins said. “I think people took for granted Darius was going to get you 17, 18, 19, 20 (points) every night. He never went off for 30 and I think people don’t respect his ability because of that. It’s hard to get those numbers the way he got those numbers.”

“He has always had a pro on his team, so it wasn’t like he was always the man. And so, did he have a great senior year? As consistent as you can have,” Collins said. “I don’t think people really understand how great of a career he had here.”

“If you look how he started the year, everyone was talking about Darius. It’s amazing that Jae didn’t get his due early in the year for how good he was, and Darius didn’t get his due at the end of the year for how good he was,” Collins said.  “And we don’t do what we did without both of those guys, and it came to fruition in the Florida game. You have both of those guys having off nights, you see where your team is.”

Best performance: at Villanova (26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 38 minutes)

It’s only fitting that a natural scorer like Johnson-Odom’s best game was also his highest scoring output. He scored 13 points in the first half on 5-of-12 shooting, but was much more efficient during Marquette’s second half comeback. He scored 13 more points, but made 4-of-8 shots and handed out four assists. He turned the ball over once, made 2-of-3 3-pointers and, while it was Crowder’s key bucket and Vander Blue’s free throws down the stretch that sealed the game, Johnson-Odom put both in the position to do so.

Worst performance: vs. Milwaukee (12 points, 4-12 FG, 4 turnovers, 5 fouls)

Marquette won the contest handily, 64-50, but it also marked the third straight sub-par performance from Johnson-Odom. Including the Milwaukee game, he averaged 12.6 points on 41 percent shooting in that stretch, and was suspended for the Northern Colorado game. He also had had four turnovers, three days after committing six against LSU. After a 12-point performance against Vanderbilt, however, Johnson-Odom opened the conference season by averaging 19.4 points through seven games, making 21-of-50 3-pointers.

2012 outlook: As an NBA prospect, Johnson-Odom is like Jerel McNeal in that Marquette’s offense made him more of a shooting guard, despite his height (6-foot-2) giving him the size of a point guard. Johnson-Odom doesn’t have the defensive traits or ball-handling of McNeal, but Johnson-Odom does have the bulk, athleticism and quick release that could make him an offensive spark off the bench in an NBA offense.

He’s never going to be a true point guard, but Johnson-Odom will need to prove he can handle the ball at the next level. His dribble is higher than desired and he doesn’t create much on his own, but he’s almost unstoppable off the wing as defenses rotate.

Defensively, Johnson-Odom doesn’t have optimal speed, but his size and athleticism should make him a good enough defender at the next level. He’s going to make his money at the next level scoring the ball, but his defense needs to improve some as he goes on.

He’s not a first round pick right now, but Johnson-Odom could certainly latch on as a second round pick with a legitimate shot to make an NBA roster.

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