Buzz strikes juco gold again with Johnson-Odom

It’s no doubt senior forward Lazar Hayward is the most talented player for Marquette. But what happens when he has an off night? Jimmy Butler has played well as his wingman, but that’s simply not enough support. The question going into the season was who would be the third or fourth option for this young team.

He wasn’t the most well-known recruit, but Darius Johnson-Odom is already showing flashes of brilliance.
He wasn’t the most well-known recruit, but Darius Johnson-Odom is already showing flashes of brilliance.

Seniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan were expected to handle the point guard position, but no one could predict how well because of a lack of consistent playing time. Junior transfer Dwight Buycks also earned a lot of preseason hype for his tremendous scoring ability at Indian Hills Junior College. But nobody talked about junior college transfer Darius Johnson-Odom.

Now people are talking.

Johnson-Odom sparked a Golden Eagle attack, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds in Tuesday night’s 71-51 defeat of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“We wanted to come out with a lot of energy,” Johnson-Odom said about the game. “Knowing that we lost two games in a row, it was important for us to come out with a lot of energy.”

Johnson-Odom did just that by knocking down three 3-pointers and adding three assists and two steals in the win over the Panthers.

“He’s gotten better every game out,” UW-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said about Johnson-Odom. “He’s playing at a pace that fits him. He’s not too fast, and I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. He’s playing at a really good pace right now.”

Johnson-Odom, a sophomore out of Raleigh, N.C., joined the Golden Eagles after one year at Hutchinson Community College. As a freshman, he was named a First Team NJCAA All-American selection.

Coach Buzz Williams was aware of Johnson-Odom’s success in junior college and knew what to expect when the 6-foot-2 guard joined the Golden Eagles.

“He goes one year of junior college, he plays 30 games, he’s the best player,” Williams said. “He shoots all the balls, he shoots those balls when he wants to shoot those balls, if he wants to guard he will guard. If he doesn’t want to guard he’ll catch his breath because he’s about to take the next shot.”

The sharp-shooting lefty is currently third on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game and is shooting a remarkable 52.9 percent from the three.

This hidden talent Marquette’s coaching staff snagged is starting to pay huge dividends. Last year, the team mainly focused around three players on the offensive end of the ball. This year it could be any number of players, and Johnson-Odom has taken on some of the early responsibility.

“Coach wants me to be aggressive,” Johnson-Odom said. “We don’t have that many players as far as coming off the bench but he wants me to be aggressive any time that I can.”

Johnson-Odom’s impressive start to the season has Williams excited to see what the future has in store.

“He’s just now getting to the point where he’s had enough reps on both ends of the floor to have some comfortability in what we’re trying to do,” Williams said. “When he can become just as much of a presence defensively as he is offensively, he’s going to be a really core person to our team.”