JaJuan Johnson

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 14 Marquette Golden Eagles

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 26-9, 14-4 (t-1st Big East); Lost in the Elite 8 to Syracuse

Head Coach: Buzz Williams (6th season at Marquette: 122-54, 60-30 Big East)

Key Losses: Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett

Newcomers: Duane Wilson, Deonte Burton, Jameel McKay, JaJuan Johnson, John Dawson

Projected Lineup

G: Derrick Wilson, Jr.
G: Todd Mayo, Jr.
F: Jamil Wilson, Sr.
F: Davante Gardner, Sr.
C: Chris Otule, Sr.
Bench: JaJuan Johnson, Fr.; Deonte Burton, Fr.; Duane Wilson, Fr.; Juan Anderson, Jr.; Steve Taylor, So.; Jameel McKay, Jr.

They’ll be good because …: Marquette’s front line will be one of the best in the country, as this group can legitimately go five or six deep. It starts with the big boys: Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, who combine for more than 550 pounds of center. In the past, these two have shared time up front, as Gardner is much more of an offensive threat while Otule is a defensive presence and a space-eater in the lane, but don’t be surprised to see them being used together more this season.

But those two aren’t alone up front. Jamil Wilson is the latest in the long line of combo-forwards to come through the Marquette program. Steve Taylor was a highly-regarded forward coming out of Chicago in 2012. JuCo transfer Jameel McKay and junior Juan Anderson, who started 31 games as a sophomore, round out the front line rotation. There is enough talent, depth, and versatility here for Buzz Williams to be able to create a number of different looks up front.

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But they might disappoint because …: Generally speaking, Marquette has been known for their back court over the course of Williams’ tenure, but there are plenty of question marks when it comes to the guards on the Golden Eagles’ roster. The returnees are Derrick Wilson, Todd Mayo and Jake Thomas, none of whom will strike fear into Big East opponents’ hearts. Williams landed an impressive recruiting class that included top 100 prospects Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson, and JaJuan Johnson as well as John Dawson, and while that group may be the future of Marquette basketball, they’re not necessarily the present. They’re freshmen, after all.

How well will they acclimate to playing in the Big East? Can Derrick Wilson play the role of Marquette’s primary ball-handler? Is Mayo healthy (and mature?) enough to be relied upon as a consistent source of scoring? There is talent there, but there are plenty of questions and concerns as well.

Outlook: This team is an intriguing as any that Williams has had in his five seasons in Milwaukee. It’s built around size in the front court and will rely upon youthful, inexperienced talent in the back court, the first time we’ve seen a team like that from him at Marquette. Here’s a stat to remember, however: In his five seasons at Marquette, Williams has never had a team outside the top 35 in offensive efficiency. But in those five years, his teams have ranked 85th, 304th, 129th, 16th and 239th in tempo. Williams knows how to build a system to maximize the strengths of the players on his roster.

More to the point, Williams is almost like Bo Ryan in the sense that his teams always seem to be better on the floor than they look on paper. He may hate the idea that his teams succeed because they outwork and out-hustle their opponents not because of talent or coaching, but the bottom-line is that Marquette does outwork and out-hustle teams. What makes them scary is when there is talent on the roster, and this year’s group certainly has the pieces. Marquette should enter the season as the favorite to win the Big East, so it will be interesting to see if Williams can find the right way for all those pieces to fit together.

2013 guard Jajuan Johnson verbally commits to Marquette

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Already boasting a 2013 recruiting class that ranks among the best in the country, Marquette got even deeper as 6-4 shooting guard Jajuan Johnson verbally committed to the school as reported by Jerry Meyer of 247Sports.

Johnson, who attends Southwind High School in Memphis, picked the Golden Eagles over Alabama and Miami.

Johnson fits right in with Marquette’s style of play, and he’ll give the Golden Eagles another attack-minded guard when he arrives on campus.

Marquette already has verbal commitments from guards Duane Wilson and John Dawson, wing Deonte Burton and Indian Hills JC power forward Jameel McKay.

Johnson and company will join a backcourt that has just two seniors this season, point guard Junior Cadougan and shooting guard Trent Lockett.

Vander Blue will be a senior next season while Todd Mayo and Derrick Wilson will be juniors, and 6-4 Jamal Ferguson will be a sophomore.

The Golden Eagles have been a very consistent program since joining the Big East in 2005, failing to finish in the top five of the standings just once (2010-11) and reaching the NCAA tournament every year (overall Marquette has gone to the tournament eight straight years).

But the question, with the conference once again going through realignment after this season, is whether or not Buzz Williams’ program can take the next step and win a Big East title.

With the work that Marquette has done on the recruiting trail with this 2013 group, that could very well happen in the near future.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Top 15 recruit Nick King commits to Memphis

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Josh Pastner earned a commitment from a second player in the Class of 2013 on Monday morning as Nick King, a top 15 recruit from East High in Memphis, pledged for the Tigers. King is a 6-foot-7 left-handed small forward who has a game that is similar to that of Rodney Hood. He played very well at Nike’s Global Challenge in DC this summer.

Not only is King the second player in Pastner’s 2013 recruiting class, he’s the second local product. Earlier this month, he earned a commitment from Markel Crawford of Melrose High, a top 100 recruit. Three more top 50 recruits — Austin Nichols, Johnathon Williams III, and JaJuan Johnson (who was at King’s press conference on Monday) — go to school in the city, and that doesn’t include Robert Hubbs, who lives a couple hours outside Memphis.

Pastner has already done a tremendous job recruiting in the city. While a couple of high profile names have escaped him in recent years — Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Chris Jones, who went to a JuCo and is still considering Memphis — kids like Joe Jackson, Adonis Thomas and Chris Crawford are all Memphis natives.

The question remains: who else will Pastner add in this class?

(Photo credit: CBSSports.com)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Josh Pastner lands first, hopefully not last, Memphis product for 2013

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Memphis is a city that routinely produces quite a bit of basketball talent, but the 2013 class has the potential to be something special.

There are currently four consensus top 50 recruits — Nick King, Johnathan Williams III, Austin Nichols, JaJuan Johnson — that go to high school in the city, and that doesn’t include Robert Hubbs, a top 15 recruit from a couple hours outside the city, or Markel Crawford.

Crawford is a top 100 recruit in his own right, one that had impressed during the spring and the summer prior to tearing his ACL in a tournament in Milwaukee. Perhaps it was a result of that injury — he’ll have surgery on Friday to repair it — that Crawford became the first member of the Class of 2013 to commit to play for his hometown school.

“Basically I was just praying, and God told me what to do when I woke up this morning,” Crawford told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which first reported the commitment. “[Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire] had a whole [to do with the commitment]. He showed great support and he was on me the whole time.”

Pastner has room for five or six signees in this class, which will be the group that ushers in the Big East era for the Tigers. Think about that sales pitch: “You can become the face of the program that you’ve grown up cheering for your whole life as we make our way into one of the best basketball conferences in the country.”  That’s not a hard sell before you throw in the fact that Pastner has already done a pretty good job at securing the best to come out of the city.

The question now becomes who else can he get?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

LeBron James Skills Academy begins, high school and college rosters inside

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The LeBron James Skills Academy officially got underway Friday night in Las Vegas, Nev., showcasing the best talent in high school and college basketball in front of scouts and media.

Below is a roster of high school participants, with a link to the college roster as well.

HIGH SCHOOL ROSTER

Stephen Clark | Oklahoma City, Okla.

Wesley Clark | Romulus, Mich. | Class of 2013

Jordan Woodard | Edmond, Okla. | Class of 2013

Parker Jackson-Cartwright | Los Angeles, Calif. | Class of 2014

Solomon Poole | Jacksonville, Fla. | Class of 2013

Kasey Hill | Montverde, Fla. |  Class of 2013

Shane Rector | Bronx, N.Y. | Class of 2013

RaShawn Powell | Orlando, Fla. | Class of 2013

Jaren Sina | Lake Hopatcong, N.J. | Class of 2013

Anthony Barber | Hampton, Va. | Class of 2013

Tyler Ennis | Ontario, Can. | Class of 2013

Duane Wilson | Whitefish Bay, Wisc | Class of 2013

Xavier Rathan-Mayes | Huntington, W.V. | Class of 2013

Isaiah Briscoe | Union, N.J. | Class of 2015

Zach LaVine | Bothel, Wash. |  Class of 2013

Shelton Mitchell | Waxhaw, N.C. | Class of 2014

Kameron Mitchell | Baltimore, Md. | Class of 2013

Donte Clark | Charlotte, N.C. | Class of 2013

Allerik Freeman | Charlotte, N.C. | Class of 2013

Jordan Mathews | Los Angeles, Calif. | Class of 2013

Stanford Robinson | Landover, Md. | Class of 2013

Nigel Williams-Goss | Henderson, Nev. | Class of 2013

JaJuan Johnson | Memphis, Tenn. | Class of 2013

EC Matthews | Romulus, Mich. | Class of 2013

D’Angelo Russell | Louisville, Ky. | Class of 2014

Josh Hart | Washington, D.C. | Class of 2013

Sindarius Thornwell | Lancaster, S.C. | Class of 2014

Devin Booker | Ocean Springs, Miss. | Class of 2013

Billy Garrett | Chicago, Ill. | Class of 2013

Isaac Hamilton | Los Angeles, Calif. | Class of 2013

Jalen Lindsey | Franklin, Tenn. | Class of 2014

Tyler Roberson | Union, N.J. | Class of 2013

Matt Jones | Dallas, Texas | Class of 2013

Roschon Prince | Long Beach, Calif. | Class of 2013

Davon Reed | Princeton, N.J. | Class of 2013

Wayne Selden | Boston, Mass. | Class of 2013

Jabari Bird | Richmond, Calif. | Class of 2013

Theo Pinson | Greensboro, N.C. | Class of 2014

Jarell Martin | Baton Rouge, La. | Class of 2013

Troy Williams | Phoebus, Va. | Class of 2013

Semi Ojeleye | Ottawa, Kan. | Class of 2013

James Young | Troy, Mich. | Class of 2013

Leron Black | Memphis, Tenn. | Class of 2014

Nick King | Memphis, Tenn. | Class of 2013

Reggie Cameron | Hackensack, N.J. | Class of 2013

Derrick Griffin | Rosenberg, Texas | Class of 2013

Tre Lyles | Indianapolis, Ind. | Class of 2014

Noah Vonleh | Haverhill, Mass. | Class of 2014

Andrew Wiggins | Ontario, Can. | Class of 2014

JaQuan Lyles | Evansville, Ind. | Class of 2014

Marcus Lee | Antioch, Calif. | Class of 2013

Diamond Stone | Milwaukee, Wisc. | Class of 2015

Christian Wood | Palmdale, Calif. | Class of 2013

Justin Jackson | Houston, Texas | Class of 2014

Jordan Mickey | Houston, Texas | Class of 2014

Torren Jones | Chandler, Ariz. | Class of 2013

Kev0n Looney | Milwaukee, Wisc. | Class of 2014

Austin Colbert | Lakeville, Conn. | Class of 2013

Kenton Facey | Baldwin, N.Y. | Class of 2013

Shannon Hale | Asheville, N.C. | Class of 2013

Kuran Iverson | Windsor, Conn. | Class of 2013

Marc Loving | Toledo, Ohio | Class of 2013

Chris McCullough | Bronx, N.Y. | Class of 2014

Kyle Washington | Champlin, Minn. | Class of 2013

Devin Williams | Cincinnati, Ohio | Class of 2013

Ivan Raab | Oakland, Calif. | Class of 2015

Chris Walker | Bonifay, Fla. | Class of 2013

Moses Kingsley | New Albany, Ariz. | Class of 2013

Malik Price-Martin | Miami, Fla. | Class of 2013

Jermaine Lawrence | Springfield Gardens, N.Y. | Class of 2013

Austin Nichols | Collierville, Tenn. | Class of 2013

Thomas Hamilton | Chicago, Ill. | Class of 2013

Karviar Shepherd | Arlington, Texas | Class of 2013

Dominic Woodson | Saxtons River, Vt. | Class of 2013

Cliff Alexander | Chicago, Ill. | Class of 2014

Kennedy Meeks | Charlotte, N.C. | Class of 2014

Bobby Portis | Little Rock, Ark. | Class of 2013

Jimmie Taylor | Greensboro, N.C. | Class of 2013

Julius Randle | McKinney, Texas | Class of 2013

To see college rosters, click here.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Louisville’s big recruiting weekend

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Louisville is coming off of a season where they won the Big East tournament and made a run all the way to the Final Four. They are heading into a season where they will be a consensus top three team when the official preseason polls are released.

In other words, there probably aren’t three programs that will have a better 2012 calender year.

Which is why this weekend is so important for the future of the Cardinal program: Louisville will have enough talent visiting their campus to reach the 2015 Final Four.

It starts with a pair of Virginia Tech defectors. Montrezl Harrell, a top 100 big man in the class of 2012 and a former Tech signee, will be visiting Louisville (who many believe is his favorite) along with Dorian Finney-Smith, a transfer that left Tech when Seth Greenberg was fired. Finney-Smith would have to sit out a year before becoming eligible.

Also on campus will be a pair of top 30 prospects from the class of 2013. JaJuan Johnson is a shooting guard from Memphis that has seen his stock skyrocket after the spring evaluation period, which was aided by the fact that he has grown two inches to 6-foot-5 since last summer. Johnson is the nephew of Louis Williams of the 76ers. Jordan Mickey, an athletic comb0-forward and a five-star recruit, may be the most highly-regarded prospect that will be in Louisville this weekend.

Joining them will be 6-foot-7 wings Kates Beita-Diop and Malek Harris, both members of the class of 2014 from Illinois.

The saying “strike while the iron is hot” is fitting in the recruiting world. When your program is on the upswing, it is important to not only get talented recruits onto your campus, but to convince them to come to your school. That’s the best way to prevent your program from being on a downswing.

Pitino is halfway there this weekend.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.