Marquette Wire

Jajuan Johnson ready to live up to expectations

Junior guard was ranked No. 27 by ESPN in 2013, but hasn't played well in time at MU

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Jajuan Johnson ready to live up to expectations

(Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu)

(Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu)

(Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu)

(Photo by Doug Peters/douglas.peters@mu.edu)

Peter Fiorentino, peter.fiorentino@mu.edu

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It would be rather difficult to call the 2014-’15 basketball season a success for junior Jajuan Johnson.

The guard’s numbers dropped off from his freshman season in nearly every statistical category. His field goal percentage fell from 44 to 37 percent, his three-point accuracy plummeted from 29 to 21 percent and he averaged an additional turnover per game. Last January, Johnson went 9-38 from the field, and missed the Xavier game with a sprained ankle, a game that Marquette went on to lose 62-58.

It’s difficult to describe Johnson’s role last year. Was he supposed to be a lockdown defender? A three-point shooter? How about a rim attacker? Perhaps the most frustrating part about Johnson’s season was that there were no answers. This season should be a different story.

“I think JJ had his best summer since I’ve been around,” head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “First and foremost, we are going to need him to be a reliable defender on the perimeter. We have to be able to put him on the other team’s best perimeter players and him give a great defensive effort.” 

The Memphis, Tennessee native has learned to be an altruistic defender from his head coach, the 1998 National Defensive Player of the Year. He showed tremendous defensive improvement in Wojciechowski’s first year, collecting 58 more rebounds than in his freshman campaign.

“I’ve changed my feet, (I have) quicker feet,” Johnson said. “I’ve been caring for my teammates on defense not just my own game.”

Having to guard the opponent’s best perimeter shooter this season won’t be an easy task for Johnson. Couple that with the improvements he will need to make on offense, and he has quite a workload. He did earn Wojciechowski’s praise, though, for the work he has put into his offensive game so far this year.

“Offensively, he’s very good in transition, he’s at his best when he is attacking the basket, and we want him to look for more ways to do that, and not settle for perimeter shots,” Wojciechowski said. “We want him to be an attacking player.” 

Johnson, who was ranked 27th in the 2013 recruiting class by ESPN, was a highly thought of shooter coming out of high school. That success clearly has not yet translated to collegiate play. He has worked on his shot and adjusted his unusual motion in the offseason, and he said it is already doing his game wonders.

“Even in practice I’ve been shooting terrific right now,” Johnson said. “I moved (the ball) over to the right. I don’t bring it across (my body) anymore, so it’s more natural. It’s much more about technique.”

For Wojciechowski, Johnson’s shot is just as much about technique as it is about shot selection.

“He’s worked on his shots where if he takes one from 15 feet and in, you know it’s going in,” Wojciechowski said. “I don’t want him to feel like he has to shoot threes if there’s a 15-foot shot that he has as good a chance of making. Figure out ways to attack the paint on the drive or off of cutting, where he’s getting most of his shots under the basket and at the free throw line.”

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