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QUESTIONS FOR NEXT YEAR: What is the next step for PG Markell Johnson?

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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 Basketball

The NEW & HUGE Video Board at PNC Arena has been Raised!

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Back in the Spring, news broke that a new video board was going to be hung up in PNC Arena before NC State’s upcoming Men’s Basketball season, and today we got our first look at it raised up in the rafters.

The video board is a whopping 4,000 square feet hanging in the air.

That’s 180% larger than the old one.

 

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NC State Basketball

Tip-Off Times Set for Most of NC State’s 2019-20 ACC Slate

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The NC State Men’s Basketball schedule was released last Thursday, but the tip-off times for all but one of their ACC games now have been revealed.

The only ACC game we don’t know the tip-off time for is the game at Wake Forest on December 7th.

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NC State Basketball

Katz Projects NC State as a #10 Seed in the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 50 Days Out

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We are 50 days out from the start of the 2019-20 College Men’s Basketball season, and NCAA.com’s Andy Katz released an early Bracketology, projecting that NC State will be a #10 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, playing St. Mary’s in the 1st Round.

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Athlon Predicts NC State’s Men’s Basketball Team to Finish 5th in ACC in 2019-20

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Athlon released their 2019-20 College Basketball preview, and they predict that NC State’s Men’s Basketball team will finish 5th in the ACC this season.

  1. Duke
  2. Louisville
  3. UNC
  4. UVA
  5. NC State
  6. FSU
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Miami
  9. Syracuse
  10. Georgia Tech
  11. Clemson
  12. Boston College
  13. Wake Forest
  14. Pittsburgh
  15. Virginia Tech

Here’s a rundown of what they had to say about the Wolfpack.

  • Returning 6 of top 7 scorers from last year
  • Redshirt Junior D.J. Funderburk needs to rebound more consistently, and stay out of foul trouble.
  • The version of Senior Markell Johnson that finished the season will be needed for NC State to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
    • Needs to be a consistent leader and scorer.
  • Junior Braxton Beverly needs to figure out a way to run more hot than cold.
  • Consistency from Redshirt Junior Devon Daniels would go a long way.
  • Team should be back in the NCAA Tournament.
  • With a reloading year for Duke, UVA and UNC, Keatts will get few opportunities like this one.

Pick up your own copy of Athlon’s 2019 College Basketball Preview at your local store.

 

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