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.
Clemson 81 NC State 70: OUR TAKE
NC State Head Coach Kevin Keatts said that his team didn’t “play great” against Clemson this afternoon, in their 81-70 loss to the Tigers.
That was an understatement.
Sometimes I wish a coach would come out and say the truth
The Wolfpack played terrible down in South Carolina.
Clemson outshot NC State in every category.
Clemson – 46.9/32.1/83.9
NC State – 44.1/23.8/68.4
The Tigers out rebounded the Wolfpack by 4. They had more second chance points (+2) and more points off turnovers (+6).
Clemson shot 12 more free throws.
They shared the ball better, netting 5 more assists.
The stats weren’t in their favor to walk away with the victory, but maybe what was most disappointing was the overall lack of effort.
Senior Markell Johnson still hasn’t figured out how to play consistent basketball, in production or effort, and we are half way through year 4.
The coaches ability to adjust has to be called into question after today’s performance. Clemson abused the Wolfpack with backdoor cuts and slipping screens for 40 straight minutes. Also, I’m all for aggressive defense, but failing to put the hand in the face of wide open three-point shooters is inexcusable.
NC State was without Redshirt Senior Guard C.J. Bryce, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Obviously, his presence was missed, and the game could have been different with him on the court.
This loss doesn’t ruin a season, and obviously the team can rebound from it, but the deja vu of losses like these become exhausting.
Clemson 81 NC State 70: ACCDN HIGHLIGHT REEL & CONDENSED GAME
NC State fell to 10-4 today, losing to Clemson 81-70 on the road. The ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel and Condensed Game is below.
Clemson 81 NC State 70: BOX SCORE
NC State is a 2-Point Favorite at Clemson
NC State Men’s Basketball team will hit the road today, playing at Clemson today at Noon, and the Wolfpack will hit the court as 2-point favorites. The Total is currently 136.5.
The Wolfpack is 7-5-1 Against the Spread on the year, and Clemson is 7-6. NC State is 10-2 as the favorite, and Clemson is 1-3 as the Underdog. The Wolfpack are 3-0 Against the Spread on the road, and the Tigers are 5-4 Against the Spread at home.
For both teams, the Total has gone Under in 7 of their 13 games.
- North Carolina State are 4-1-1 Against The Spread in their last 6 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of North Carolina State’s last 6 games.
- North Carolina State are 7-0 Against The Spread in their last 7 games on the road.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of North Carolina State’s last 7 games against an opponent in the Atlantic Coast conference.
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of North Carolina State’s last 5 games played in January.
- Clemson are 1-5 Against The Spread in their last 6 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Clemson’s last 5 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Clemson’s last 6 games against North Carolina State.
- Clemson are 1-4 Against The Spread in their last 5 games this season.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Clemson’s last 6 games against an opponent in the Atlantic Coast conference.
- Clemson are 5-1 Against The Spread in their last 6 games played on a Saturday. (OddShark)