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Marquette Year in Review: Jajuan Johnson

Marquette failed in the non-conference and has fewer opportunities to make it up in the Big Eat. (USA Today)

Jajuan Johnson had a freshman season to forget, but it wasn’t all his fault. (USA Today)

We apologize for these player reviews being so late into the offseason — Marquette played its last game nearly two months ago — but that pesky thing called the real world got in the way. That, and the coaching chance made us put these bad boys on the back burner. We’ll try and give you some good information while also linking back to the stellar work Anonymous Eagle did on its respective player reviews. We’ll have a dab of Synergy, a touch of KenPom and our own eye-test analysis to break down exactly what each player did well, where he struggled and how he can improve for next season. For the seniors, that final part will be replaced with where he’s headed post-Marquette.

Past player reviews

4/28: Deonte Burton
4/29: Juan Anderson
4/30: Steve Taylor
5/1: Todd Mayo

5/2: John Dawson
5/3: Jamil Wilson

Jajuan Johnson, 6-foot-5, SG

One year ago today, most would have expected this player review to look far different than what’s about to be written. The top-40 recruit finished off Buzz Williams’ most impressive recruiting class, committing in November over Alabama and Miami (FL). It was an impressive get, given that Texas was the presumed leader for quite some time and schools such as Louisville, Florida and Tennessee had all offered. Though the shooting guard position was relatively log-jammed with Jake Thomas and Todd Mayo, the understanding was there would be ample room for a player of his caliber, regardless of the roster.

Early returns boded well for a stellar freshman season; he scored 12 points vs. Grambling State, added nine at Arizona State and poured in a career-high 18 against Cal-State Fullerton. After a trio of goose eggs followed that win over the Titans, Johnson scored in double-figures in three of the Golden Eagles’ final four non-conference games while making 14 of 22 shots in those contests (63.6 percent).

Then the Big East season rolled around, and Johnson rolled out of the rotation. In 19 Big East games, Johnson played more than two minutes in just five of them and logged DNP’s in six of the last seven — in the last nine games, he played in just three and totaled five minutes. A sprained ankle in January set him back some, but that can’t be the excuse for all of his mysterious no-shows.

[MORE: Small-ball lineup has Marquette showing signs of life]

Looking at Johnson’s total raw numbers, he averaged 4.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and shot 44 percent from the field in 13.5 minutes per game. It was, all things considered, a bust of a season for Williams’ most highly touted recruit. It may not have been Johnson’s fault — Williams’ decision not to play his freshman, even when his lineups weren’t working — but Johnson’s season left plenty to be desired because of it. Marquette went three guards more often than not, and Johnson had shown the ability to stretch defenses, old his own defensively and play with poise. He was the unanimous choice as the hardest worker in Boot Camp when asked at Media Day, and Deonte Burton and John Dawson both saw minutes as the season went on, so it wasn’t as easy as simply saying Johnson was a freshman and that’s why he didn’t see time.

After speaking with new head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his mother, Johnson made the decision to stick it out and return to Marquette for his sophomore season. And playing for a coach who presumably will look for perimeter scoring, Johnson now stands to play a large role in 2014-15.

[MORE: Anonymous Eagle’s Jajuan Johnson player review]

Per Synergy, Johnson made 50 percent of his spot up jumpers (16-for-32) and, per Hoop Math, made 42 percent of his jumpers as a whole, the best mark on the team. He didn’t get to the line much (though he did shoot 80 percent from the stripe) and made just 9-for-31 3-pointers, but Johnson’s offensive prowess was on display more than once.

His outing at Arizona State was wonderful, and he did it in a number of ways. His first bucket came on a 3-pointer off the dribble, then he muscled his way into the paint before hitting a turnaround jumper. In the second half he picked off a pass and took it the length for a breakaway dunk, and he drove baseline for a layup for his final bucket. This was a tournament team, on the road while trailing the majority of the game. If he showed moxie in those 25 minutes, why couldn’t Williams find time for him in a home win over DePaul? Head-scratching, to say the least.

Later in the non-conference season he again put his versatile skill set to work. Against Samford, he drained a pair of spot-up 3-pointers, used a pump fake to free himself up for an 18-footer, had another steal-and-breakaway lay-up and was the outlet on a dunk late in the second half. Johnson didn’t have a signature play, and that’s a good thing. He’s incredibly versatile.

Hopefully he’ll get to show that off next season. Thomas is gone, and though Mayo stands to earn the starting nod, that’s about it at shooting guard. Ahmed Hill is gone and Sandy Cohen, at 6-foot-6, is more of a wing than anything. Paint Touches has noted here that Duane Wilson may see some time off the ball, but even still Johnson is a good bet to near 20 minutes per game. If Wojciechowski’s offense is anything like Duke’s, perimeter players thrive on solid spacing and open looks.

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Categories: Analysis, Player Review

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One Comment on “Marquette Year in Review: Jajuan Johnson”

  1. Tom
    May 6, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Solid review & preview for next season. I have finally stopped scratching my head over Buzz’s playing time decisions. Time to get excited about the Wojo era! #mubb #WojoBringinTheMojo

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