The Memphis Tigers are absolutely loaded in the backcourt. In 2013-14, head coach Josh Pastner will have his best unit since he took the job in 2009. With senior guards Michael Dixon, Chris Crawford, Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson, and some very talented freshmen, the Tigers possess a deep and talented group of guards that can match up with any team in the country.
All of them are talented and have their own skill set that will help them contribute this year in the program’s first year in the AAC. Many consider Jackson to be the team’s best player and leader. After all, he’s won two C-USA Tournament MVPs and was the Player of the Year last season. However, Johnson has the potential to be the best of the group.
He was considered to be the top JUCO recruit in the country by many publications, but his past troubles with the law kept many from seriously taking a run at him. Pastner did, and it paid off in a big way as Johnson was a model citizen and teammate last year for Memphis. He followed the strict ground rules Pastner placed on him and was a big part of the Tigers’ 31-5 record.
But, what is it that could make Johnson the best guard Memphis has on a roster loaded at the position?
There are a number of things, with the first being his defensive presence. He is arguably the Tigers best defender. Other than steals (1.7 per game in 2012-13), you wouldn’t be able to tell how good Johnson is on the defensive end by looking at the stat sheet. You can see it, though, by watching him in person.
He’s what you would call a breath-checker, constantly getting in the face of opponents and putting pressure on the ball. Johnson has very active hands. Tips on passes aren’t recorded, but there were countless times where he tipped the ball or stole it to create easy fast-break opportunities for the Tigers.
His speed allows him to get right up against opponents and create a nuisance. That speed also makes him a serious threat to blow past defenders and get to the rim. Johnson is a great slasher and finishes more times than not when he makes his way into the paint. Sometimes, he’s so quick with the ball that it doesn’t seem fair. Johnson just knows how to utilize his speed and do it very well.
His offensive game is made much more lethal with his ability to shoot the ball. A big reason his field goal percentage was 44.4 percent was because he could get to the rim. But, the senior also has a nice stroke.
One of his best shots last year was when he acted as if he was going to go to the rim, only to quickly crossover back a step and pull up for the mid-range jumper. Johnson also has a great floater, though it’s not as good as Jackson’s. He shot 35 percent from 3-point range, and while he could definitely improve on that this year, he made some crucial shots from downtown for Pastner and Memphis last season.
Oh, and let’s not forget his passing ability. He was second on the team with 117 assists (3.3 assists per game) on the season. When he drove to the paint, defenders would collapse and he’d find an open teammate for an easy, uncontested basket.
Johnson averaged 10.4 points per game last year, a number that looks to take a big jump. He has tons of potential and could be the best pro prospect of the seniors on the team. Though it probably won’t happen, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he led the Tigers in scoring. There were games last year where he showed that he can be the best player on the court for either team.
He’s primed for a big senior year and could end up being the best guard on the team.