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 Women’s Basketball Stays Put at #14 in Week 2 AP Poll
After going 2-0 in Week 1 against North Carolina A&T and UNCW, the NC State Women’s Basketball team stayed put at #14 in the Week 2 AP Poll. The Wolfpack’s 1 game this week is against Lamar on Thursday night at home.
The Wolfpack finished 10th in the AP Poll last season, which was the highest finish since the 1997-98 season (#10 as well). The highest NC State has ever finished in the AP Poll is 3rd in 1977-78.
ACC Teams in the Week 2 AP Poll
14) NC State
15) Notre Dame (+1)
17) Miami (+1)
20) Syracuse (+1)
Markell Johnson Moves into 8th Place in NC State History in Assists
Senior Point Guard Markell Johnson made his 2019-20 debut last night, recording 10 assists against Detroit-Mercy, moving into 8th place all-time in NC State history, passing Nate McMillan and Cat Barber.
Johnson will likely finish his career with the 4th most assists in school history. If he can top his previous season high of 190 assists in a season, he could pass Lorenzo Brown for 3rd.
Kevin Keatts Press Conference After Detroit-Mercy: BULLETED
Head Coach Kevin Keatts met with the media in his postgame press conference after NC State’s 84-65 victory over Detroit-Mercy yesterday. You can watch it here, or check out the bulleted breakdown below.
- Any time you get your first win of the year with a new group of guys, it is exciting. I thought we did some really good things tonight.
- Braxton Beverly did a great job with a career-high of 23 points and made 6 three pointers.
- He did a tremendous job of getting us going.
- It was good to have Markell Johnson back on the floor.
- He led us in assists and rebounds.
- He moved the ball and it is always good to have a legitimate point guard on the floor to make plays.
- We came into the game knowing we were going to be playing against an elite scorer in Antoine Davis.
- We wanted him to have to take a lot of shots to get his points, and we accomplished what we wanted to.
- He scored 28, but took 23 shots to get there.
- We did a great job of defending in front of the three-point line.
- We still have to get better in certain areas.
- We were able to get out in transition and get some easy shots, which we weren’t able to do in our scrimmages and against Georgia Tech.
- Manny Bates is a game changer on the back end of the press.
- He had seven blocks tonight.
- I have to ask everyone to be a little patient with him.
- When you first think of a post guy you think about the effectiveness offensively, but that doesn’t account for the mistakes that we make that he can erase with his shot-blocking ability.
- Against Georgia Tech, he had 5 blocks and then 7 tonight, so he is averaging 6 blocks a game.
- He is getting better and is going to continue to get more confident in his role.
- He has got to do more talking on the back end, but overall I like what he is doing.
- He didn’t shoot as well because it is tough when you haven’t practiced.
- He only practiced yesterday for a little bit to get back into the flow of things.
- He passed up some shots.
- I was yelling at him to shoot the ball on that three that he did make.
- He will be fine. I don’t worry about him because I know when his scoring comes back, he will give us another weapon on the perimeter.
On Antoine Davis playing for his father Mike Davis…
- Give that kid a lot of credit.
- For Mike Davis, it has to be really tough to coach your son because when your son’s a point guard and you win it’s really great, but when your son’s a point guard and you lose games they complain.
On hoping his sons play one day…
- When it comes to my sons, if they’re fortunate enough to play Division I or Division II basketball, all the recruiting would come through my wife.
- I won’t do any of the recruiting, trust me.
On John Calipari being in the building…
- You have to give him credit. He came up here to see his son.
- It’s tough when your son’s playing for another team and you have to take care of your own team.
- I talked to Cal 3 days ago, and he told me he wanted to come to the game, and I took the opportunity to tell him to take it easy on A.W. Hamilton when they played Eastern Kentucky, and he beat them by 40, so he didn’t listen to me at all.
- He had a quiet 19, but I thought he did some good stuff.
- If we’re going to be successful, our veteran guys obviously have to lead us.
- C.J. Bryce is one of them and Markell is the other.
- He has put together back-to-back games, and when you get to your senior year, that’s what you want from your seniors, to be able to do that.
- I was very happy with C.J. and the way he played.
- I wish he had rebounded the ball a little bit more.
- In the last game, he had a lot of rebounds. He led us in rebounds.
- I thought we had some opportunities to get us to the zone to get some 2nd and 3rd shots, but we didn’t get them for whatever reason.
Improving before ACC play…
- I am smart enough not to look past everyone else to try and get to the ACC games, but I want to get better in certain areas.
- Defensive transition, which against Georgia Tech, I didn’t like, and I thought we did better today.
- Offensive transition I didn’t like against Georgia Tech, and we did better today.
- I want to do a better job rebounding the basketball. I thought we gave up too many 2nd and 3rd shots.
- That being said, we are going from game-to-game.
- I want to see improvement next time we play on Wednesday.
- As we go along, by the time we get to the next ACC game, we’ll show up having gotten better in a lot of areas.
- A.J. just wasn’t feeling good and was going through a couple of personal things, and he and I talked before the game, and we thought it was better that he just sit out of this game.
No update on D.J. Funderburk. Thanks for asking, though.
NC State 84 Detroit-Mercy 65: ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game
The NC State Men’s Basketball team won their first game of the 2019-20 season yesterday, defeating Detroit-Mercy 84-65. The ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel and Condensed Game are below.
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