Markell Johnson made a gigantic leap in both mentality and statistical production from his freshman year to his sophomore season.
He came to NC State as an athletic PG with elite quicks who could score it. In season one, he got to work behind Dennis Smith Jr and see what a high-end scoring PG looks like. He saw Smith put up gaudy numbers, but he also saw the team fall to 4-14 in the ACC.
Kevin Keatts challenged Markell from day one. Not to be the second coming of Dennis Smith Jr, but instead to be a leader and a teammate. He challenged him to learn the PG position. How to control pace and dictate flow. As the season unfolded, Johnson cut down on his shots and found his role as a distributor. He went on a record-breaking run, dishing out double-digit assists in 5 straight games for the Wolfpack. He finished the season at a very respectable 9 points and 7 assists per game.
Johnson was getting into the lane, drawing the defense and finding the open man. But teams adjusted late in ACC play. Suddenly they were giving Johnson open looks. His passing had become so dangerous that they began to not help off so much and to go under the pick and roll. They started to dare him to shoot.
For whatever reason, Markell was reluctant to fire it up. He hesitated and deferred to his teammates more down the stretch. Now, there were times when he focused on scoring the ball, and when he did, he was successful. Johnson played 756 minutes this season and only attempted 176 shots. That is far an away the lowest of the starters (Beverly was next lowest with 248). This is despite the fact that he shot a very good 46% from the floor (best amongst NC State guards) and shot 41% from 3pt range (2nd best amongst NC State guards – Sam Hunt led the team at 42%).
Markell is not just a capable scorer, he’s a talented one. He’s also got great vision and is an elite distributor. This kid can make plays all over the basketball court. He’s showcased his talents this season, but this is just the beginning.
The challenge for Johnson in the offseason is to learn how to put these pieces together. How to be a dangerous scorer and an elite distributor all at once. He will need to be a more situational PG and be more in tune with game flow. Understanding those aspects of the basketball game will allow him to figure out what his team needs and when they need it.
The good news is that the Pack will be stacked at guard next season. Beverly returns, they add Blake Harris, and they still have Lavar Batts. This will give Johnson some rest. The Pack’s lack of experienced guards hurt them this season. Johnson being forced to play so many minutes certainly took away from what he was capable of doing. He was constantly guarding the quickest guy on the court and then asked to be the main ball handler on the offensive end. With Keatts system asking for full-court pressure at all times, this is almost impossible for a kid, even as conditioned as Markell, to operate at 100% on both ends of the floor.
If Johnson can continue to shore up his leadership skills and take this offseason to build up both his body and his scorer’s mentality, then NC State will have an all-ACC caliber PG to open 2018-19.
NC State Makes Top-10 for Graduate Transfer Guard Justin Kier
George Mason Graduate Transfer Guard Justin Kier (6’4″/197) included NC State in his list of Final 10 schools.
— Andrew Slater (@Andrew__Slater) April 13, 2020
Kier was granted a fifth year of eligibility after missing all but 9 games last season due to injury. He was expected to arguably be George Mason’s best returning player next year, averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, earning All-Atlantic 10 2nd Team honors.
NC State Reaches Out to UAB Transfer Makhtar Guyer
According to Rivals’ Corey Evans, NC State has reached out to UAB Transfer Forward Makhtar Guyer (6’10″/210), after he announced he was transferring on Friday.
Virginia Tech has offered UAB transfer Makhtar Guyer, he tells @RivalsPortal.
Georgetown, Miami, Mississippi State, NC State and San Diego State have reached out since his transfer yesterday. @Hokie_Haven
— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 11, 2020
— Makhtar Gueye (@Thelionkilla) April 11, 2020
Guyer has one year of eligibility remaining. Last year as a Junior at UAB, Guyer averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, starting in 27 of 31 games.
NC State Accepts Recommendation to Move Case to IARP
NC State has accepted the recommendation to move their violation’s case from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
“We’ve stated throughout this process that NC State will accept accountability for any shortcomings and defend ourselves aggressively where we feel it is appropriate and necessary to do so,” Woodson wrote in a statement released by the school on Wednesday. “As our response to the Referral Petition demonstrates, we do not think NC State can receive an objective or fair hearing before the Committee on Infractions in this matter. We believe the only remaining option is that our case be moved to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
“NC State has a long history of working cooperatively with the NCAA, and we remain committed to working collaboratively through the IARP to address concerns and to resolve this matter as fairly and efficiently as possible.” (WRAL)
The IARP is made up of decision makers that are investigators and legal advocates that are independent of any NCAA teams.
The difference between the traditional process, and the IARP, is that the latter’s decision is final, unable to be appealed.
Vote For NC State Men’s Basketball Fans in Fox College Hoops 64-Team Bracket
In the absence of the NCAA Tournament, Fox College Hoops has created a 64-team bracket to determine the best fanbase of Men’s Basketball teams.
They determined 60 of the contestants based of the Men’s Basketball teams with the most Twitter followers. The final four were determined by the highest rated teams not yet selected according to the NET Rankings.
You: So how does this #FOXFanVote thing work?
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) April 5, 2020
The winner of each matchup is determined by fan vote, obviously.
NC State’s Men’s Basketball fans were given a #8 seed in the East Bracket.
The winner of the bracket, will earn quite a gift. Fox College Hoops will place a billboard of that team in close proximity to their rival.
Go ahead and vote for NC State to beat Alabama in the 1st round right now.