The name Anthony Johnson might not ring a bell to the causual Purdue fan. I know that I have more luck drawing a connection by referring to him as ‘the guy that sat next to Robbie Hummel last season.'
After a year of private tutoring from the college basketball's top student-teacher, Anthony Johnson is ready to introduce himself the Boiler Nation. With combination of his skill-set and favorable circumstances, there is a strong possibility that Johnson will make a name for himself in very short order.
Despite preseason questions regarding his shot selection and defense, it's clear that Anthony Johnson is doing all of the right things to earn playing time this season. After having his wings clipped for a year, Anthony Johnson wasted no time making an impact in his two preseason games. Johnson recorded a collective 17 points (7-17), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists, 1 block and 2 TO's.
Above all, Anthony Johnson has demonstrated that he can create his own shot using his quickness and athleticism. While he is primarily known as a deadly three point shooter (he shot 48% behind the arc as a HS senior), he is also deceptively fast and can slice his way into the lane with little hesitation. He has the athleticism to fight his way to the rim against bigger players, but he also has a reliable floater and pull-up jumper. Despite his rail thin frame, his athleticism allows him to mix it up down low with bigger players and draw fouls.
With the absence of Moore and JJ, Purdue will desperately need someone that can create offense and take some pressure off of Hummel. He might not be the first person Painter will use to fill this role, but I think Johnson will get his opportunity in short order. It is my opinion that Anthony Johnson's ability to both stretch the defense with his range and create his own shot could make him a valuable asset to the offense.
The attribute that will make or break Anthony Johnson this season is his confidence (or as the cool kids are saying these days - his swagger). If choosing to don the #1 isn't enough evidence, the four preseason games he's played in has demonstrated that he has little fear with the basketball. If he can play within the motion offense and produce, his confidence will be a welcomed attribute. However, if he starts straying from the system, Matt Painter will not hesitate to bench him. But this is an attribute that all good shooters possess and an attitude that Purdue has not seen in some time.
Having come from Chicago Public School powerhouse Whitney Young HS, Anthony Johnson has no fear of elite competition. Despite the high-major talent he played with and against each day, Johnson led WYHS to two consecutive Chicago Public School championships.
I am sure I am going to regret making this comparison, but AJ reminds me of a smaller version of Reggie Miller. He's obviously much shorter and his defense is a work in progress, but his offensive playing style, frame, and swagger have striking similarities.
As noted, his defense will also be an aspect of his game that will draw heavy scrutiny. Not so much for his footwork or positioning, but for his ability to fight through screens. At 180 lbs, he will be playing with a bit of a disposition. But if he utilizes his athleticism and defensive awareness, he can hopefully mitigate this shortcoming. Experience will also play a big part in developing this aspect of the game.
Whether or not Anthony Johnson has the experience to earn himself major minutes early this season has yet to be determined. But we only have 1 day to find out for ourselves.