Sport 7-footer Jayce Johnson a big addition for Marquette
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Graduate transfers have become a big part of putting together a college basketball team.
Finding a player who is immediately eligible to play can help a coaching staff patch holes on its roster.
With these one-year players becoming so in-demand, sometimes it can be helpful if a coach has a personal connection. That’s how Marquette was able to land 7-foot center Jayce Johnson, who spent his first three seasons at Utah.
MU associate head coach Stan Johnson had recruited Johnson, who is from California, when Stan Johnson was on the staff at Arizona State. But Johnson took a job at MU in 2015, a few months after Sun Devils head coach Herb Sendek was fired.
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“My dad has always had a good relationship with him,” Jayce Johnson said. “When I was opening up my recruitment, we started talking again.”
MU needed some rebounding help in the frontcourt after the transfers of Sam and Joey Hauser. Johnson averaged 7.7 boards per game last season.
“I was talking to other schools,” said Johnson, who also strongly considered Nebraska. “Something about Stan and this program and Wojo (head coach Steve Wojciechowski) and the family they have, really got me wanting to come here.”
Johnson had improved every season with the Utes and was looking to do even more in his final season. He thinks he made the right choice in MU.
“It’s been really great,” Johnson said. “They’re pushing me every day. Just seeing how hard they work, it’s put me on another level than my last team. It’s been great.”
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Johnson is adjusting to a team that likes play at an uptempo pace.
“I’ve been getting in the gym, running,” he said. “Working hard. It’s a little different dynamic in the way that they play, how fast they play. But all the running we’ve been doing, I’m catching up.”
Most of the preseason talk surrounding MU has been about playing two post players together. Ed Morrow Jr. and Theo John split most of the minutes at center last season. Now Wojciechowski has to decide how to incorporate Johnson in the mix.
“I think our guys are more like the more traditional bigs that Xavier has had, when you think of some of their teams when Chris Mack was there (as head coach),” Wojciechowski said. “They were really powerful. They rebounded like crazy. They were very physical. When we have two bigs in the game, we need to be that.
Johnson is excited about the big lineups.
“(At) my last school, the coach always talked about it but we never did it,” Johnson said. “The fact that they’re implementing it and playing the power game (at MU), it’s amazing.”
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One glaring weakness in Johnson’s game is at the free-throw line. In his three seasons at Utah, he shot 103 for 211 (48.8%).
“Stan’s got me in the gym every day, shooting a ton of them,” Johnson said. “It’s been good, getting better. My form is better. Smoother.”
In an open practice in front of MU fans last week, Johnson nailed two of his three attempts from the charity stripe.
There's no doubt that Johnson’s strength is rebounding. Last season, he averaged 2.1 offensive rebounds in just 21.9 minutes per game.
“Create more possessions,” Johnson said. “Get the rebound, look for outside man, get a three-point shot.
“When you get an offensive rebound, it kind of opens up the floor. You have a guy running back in, you throw it back out. Get a nice, open three."
That’s where Johnson will likely make the biggest impact for the Golden Eagles and why the staff was so eager to grab him as a graduate transfer.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
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