As we continue looking forward to the start of college basketball season in early November, our early preview of the team continues with a returning sophomore forward who will be thrust into early minutes due to lack of experience and depth at the position. D.J. Johnson, a 6’9″ player from St. Louis from Houston, is the tallest player on the team (yes, this is the shortest squad in a line of small ones K-State has experienced in quite some time). As such, he is expected to contribute early and often upon the start of the 2012-13 season.
Johnson was utilized often early last season as K-State experimented with various line ups during the nonconference schedule. However, as Big 12 play got underway Bruce Weber stuck with a more experienced line up, leaving the freshman on the bench for the majority of all but a couple games. Notably, he registered four points over 20 minutes in a 73-67 loss at Iowa State and eight points over 15 minutes during a 66-49 victory over Texas in the Big 12 tournament, going 4-4 from the field.
Johnson averaged just under ten minutes per game on the season, and should expect that number to increase to around 15-20 minutes his second year. Starting forward Jordan Henriquez has graduated, opening the door to Thomas Gipson to assume one of the starting roles. However, the Wildcats often went with four-guard line ups in 2012-13, but do-everything guard Rodney McGruder has also moved on, which could open up a starting spot for Johnson as well. Even if Johnson comes off the bench, Gipson has consistently found himself in foul trouble with K-State and will need a reserve to spell him often.
During his 9.3 minutes per game last year, Johnson shot 56 percent from the field (best on the team) and averaged 2.3 points to go along with 2.5 rebounds and 0.4 blocks. However, attitude seemed to hold him back more than athletic ability last year. A lack of hustle on the court and in practice led assistant coach Chester Frazier to take a hard line with Johnson:
“I let him have it. I told him that if he wasn’t playing harder than everybody else and wasn’t doing the dirty work, he wasn’t going to be effective,” Frazier said. “I told him he needed to get it together.”
D.J.’s minutes were severely limited during this time, and he was held out of two straight games against Baylor and West Virginia. However, a refocused effort led to the show he put on against Texas, although he did not play against the small and quick La Salle squad that upset K-State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Hopefully Johnson plays a big role in not only getting K-State back to the dance, but also advancing farther than last year’s disappointment.
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