Although 2012 commitment Ronnie Johnson (PG - 5'10") arrived to the national scene fashionably late, his performance during the July evaluation period has demonstrated that the inflation of his stock is well justified.
The talent that he's been surrounded by at North Central has allowed him to perfect his role as a distributor. He's played along side some of the best guards in the country, allowing him to develop a team-first mentality. The development of his defense, which is suffocating despite his 5'10" stature, along with his improved scoring prowess, has elevated Johnson in the upper echelons of his recruiting class.
While many initially questioned Matt Painter's scholarship offer to Ronnie Johnson, a closer look has put any concerns to bed. The more I see him play, the more I can say with confidence that he is a low-risk, high reward prospect. He's the type of player that you feel confident that he'll make the right decisions when the ball is in his hand and he'll make those around him better. Considering the talent that Purdue has on deck, Ronnie Johnson will need to be the catalyst that ensure that it molds together on the court successfully.
Okay, that might be a little hyperbolic, but it's important to have someone on the floor with a high basketball IQ that can make good decisions.
I feel strongly that Ronnie Johnson will be that man.
One of my favorite aspects of his game is his ability to run in transition. He remains in control but sees passing lanes in transition well before they materialize. He's doesn't show-boat, but can create plays out of thin air. I did see him try to force passes that lead to TO's, but many of these instances we're attributed to his teammates unaware a pass was coming. Also, It's hard to fault a guy for being too unselfish in a AAU game. It's as rare as seeing a Hoosier at a library. (Sorry, couldn't resist). I'm trying to refrain from citing AAU game statistics in my recap posts, but he had 9 or more assists on more than 3 occasions, and that's only the games I was able to get actual stats.
Just sayin'...He's pretty good...
Here's some footage of the 2011 USSFA Shootout (late June).
As mentioned before, his shooting has come a long way. I enjoyed watching him punish defenders who sagged off of him, which should be music to the ears of all Boilermaker fans. While he has a pass-first mentality, he has the skill and confidence to put points on the board quickly. His EG10 team had a handful of really good scorers, but when his team needed a boost, he could put a lot of points on the board in a hurry. He did a great job cutting through the lane, but I wonder how much of this success was due to the fact he was a lefty.
Don't get me wrong, this is still an area that needs continued development, but he has really improved his shooting consistency over the passed year. His scoring will definitely not be a step down when compared to Purdue's recent true point guards.
I would like to see him drive to his right side more, but he does a great job protecting the ball against bigger defenders and recognizing the back door cuts as en-route to the hoop when he runs in to trouble. It's hard to tell how much success he'll have with that against Big Ten defenders, so it's imperative that he works on his right hand and continues to gain strength.
The most important element to his game, which is obviously defense, was another unexpected surprise. He showed an ability to play suffocating half-court defense and force TO's in the backcourt. Since defense is optional in AAU play, his defensive presence really stood out. I couldn't help but imagine how he's going flourish under Matt Painter's defensive schemes. As I said, he'll benefit from some added strength can definitely benefit from gaining strength to mitigate his size, but he plays defense surprisingly aggressively. He's a lot stronger than he looks.
Not to tangent but I can't help but imagine how the Johnson brothers will be notorious defenders when RJ is a sophomore. The two guards have the potential to cause absolute for opposing guards. Sorry, I digress...
Overall, I think that Ronnie Johnson's controlled and intelligent playing style will give him great opportunity to play meaningful minutes as a freshman. Ok lets be honest - with the graduation of Lewis Jackson, he doesn't have a much of a choice. But his team-first mentality ensures that he will play whatever role Matt Painter needs him to play. And if he can carry the load, it allows Kelsey Barlow and whoever else would be helping at the point (TJ?) to play roles they are more suited for.
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