Kansas State is getting an experienced forward back in action as redshirt junior D.J. Johnson has been cleared to resume on-court activity, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com.
The 6-foot-9 Johnson appeared in all 33 games for the Wildcats as a sophomore and averaged 13.9 minutes per game for the NCAA tournament team, breaking his foot in the Round of 64 clash with Kentucky. Missing the 2014-15 season recovering from that foot injury, Johnson was granted a medical redshirt and now he can return to help contribute in the Kansas State frontcourt. Johnson averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore and shot 51 percent from the floor.
The return of Johnson might not be a season-changing move for the Wildcats, but he has played in at least 30 games his first two seasons in the program and is dependable enough to play in plenty of situations this season.
Kansas State has already lost redshirt freshman Jack Karapetyan to transfer this week and now the Wildcats will have to play without reserve big man D.J. Johnson, who is expected to redshirt this season.
The 6-foot-9 Johnson suffered a broken foot in Kansas State’s NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky and was still in a walking boot last week, according to Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle.
Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber told Robinett that Johnson was a “long shot” to play this season and a likely redshirt candidate. On Tuesday, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports confirmed with Weber that Johnson would likely miss the season.
Johnson was likely to see reserve minutes this season like he did last season behind starting center Thomas Gipson, but Johnson was still a productive role player and averaged 13.9 minutes a game during which he put up 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.
The Wildcats still have junior college big man Stephen Hurt, Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and freshman Malek Harris coming off of the bench to bolster their front court, but losing Johnson will affect their rotation this season.
No. 15 Iowa State has three of the Big 12’s best players in guard DeAndre Kane and forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. That trio combines to average 52.0 points and 19.7 rebounds per game, and when they’re clicking the Cyclones are a difficult team to beat. But Fred Hoiberg’s team isn’t particularly deep and that was an issue in their 80-73 loss in Manhattan.
Kansas State’s reserves scored 38 points on the night, with Shane Southwell scoring 13 points and D.J. Johnson 12. Johnson, who also grabbed six rebounds, made all five of his shots from the field and was another valuable front court option alongside Thomas Gipson (12 points, eight rebounds).
Iowa State received just two points from its bench, with this becoming a bigger issue than usual due to the offensive struggles experienced by both Niang and Dustin Hogue. Niang wasn’t able to establish himself against the Kansas State front court, scoring eight points on 3-for-14 shooting and grabbing just two rebounds. And even though Hogue (12 rebounds) isn’t asked to score at the rate of Iowa State’s three best scorers he’s still averaging 10.8 points per game on the season, meaning that he’s clearly capable of more than the two points he tallied in Manhattan.
Ejim (30 points, 16 rebounds) and Kane (24, eight rebounds and six assists) did much of the heavy lifting for Iowa State, and this was the first subpar performance put forth by Niang after enjoying a run of 13 straight games in double figures. Saturday’s result was more about Bruce Weber’s team working together to add another quality home win to its resume.
The Wildcats don’t have a bonafide star, although freshman Marcus Foster could eventually reach that point. Against Iowa State five players scored in double figures and they also defended, limiting the Cyclones to 35% shooting from the field and 7-for-27 from beyond the arc. Kansas State’s a tournament team, but their lack of success away from Manhattan made Saturday’s contest important when it comes to their seeding.
Kansas State has one more road game remaining as they visit Oklahoma State on Monday night. And if they can put forth the same effort displayed on Saturday, the Wildcats can add a decent road/neutral result to its resume before the Big 12 tournament.