Don’t overlook Purdue’s Johnson in player of year talk


Lost amid the Jimmer Fredette-Kemba Walker-Jared Sullinger-Nolan Smith player of the year talk is the season JaJuan Johnson’s having.

Purdue’s senior center is the nation’s finest mix of scoring and defense. Few players can match his consistency or his all-around game. Seven double-doubles, only three games where he missed more than half his shots and makes 77 percent from line, fabulous for a big man. The rest of his numbers are superb:

20.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 51.0 eFG%, 1.12 PPWS and a DR% of 19.3.

That’s by playing 84 percent of Purdue’s available minutes, nearly 35 a game. Without much else in the frontcourt, Johnson must do just about everything for Purdue. And usually does.

Even in a 68-64 defeat at West Virginia, Johnson was his usual steallar self, scoring 26 points, grabbing seven rebounds in 39 minutes.

“He’s probably as hard to guard as any big guy we’ve played in the 3½ years I’ve been here,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

 Doing that against a big, physical team like the Mountaineers isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright ridiculous. Not that he thought much about it. After all, Purdue lost and dropped to 15-3. What’s to crow about?

“They’re kind of similar to a Big Ten team,” Johnson said. “It kind of reminded me of Minnesota. It wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before.”

Purdue’s now lost two straight (Johnson averaging 27.5 and 9 in those games), which is the only thing that’ll keep Johnson from garnering a heap of attention. The longer teams like Ohio State, Duke and BYU stay in the Top 10, the more it helps Sullinger, Smith and Fredette. Kemba gets a boost because of his scoring prowess.

But give it up for Johnson. He does it all and does it well.

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