What Can John Johnson Bring to Penn State's Backcourt?

Jim McIsaac

The Pitt transfer is finally eligible to see the floor just in time for the B1G slate.

John Johnson will see his first competitive action at the D-1 level for the first time in over two and a half years when he suits up for Penn State against Mount St. Mary's this Sunday. A victim of one of the NCAA's more ridiculous transfer rules, Johnson was unable to play at the beginning of this season because he played in a single exhibition game for Pitt last year before deciding to transfer. He landed in State College last December, and he'll finally have his chance to show the Panthers what they're going to be missing.

After last season's brick-a-palooza in State College (39.5% from the field as a team), Penn State has surprisingly been one of the better offensive teams in the nation. Averaging 80 ppg and shooting just over 47%, the Nittany Lions' need for Johnson isn't as pressing as many thought it would be before the season. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are currently 1-2 in the B1G in scoring and playing over 35 minutes a game, so the opportunities could be few and far between at first. But Pat Chambers would be hard-pressed to keep a Vinnie Johnson-type, as the third-year coach described him in the preseason, off the floor when his team could use a spark.

And Penn State could use a spark at the moment. Losing to Princeton in the manner that they did put quite the damper on all the optimism surrounding the team. The Tigers are a good team (KenPom: 68th), but blowing a 20-point second half lead constitutes a bad loss no matter the opponent. So perhaps some new blood in the backcourt could give the Lions a boost.

Johnson was known as a marksman during his short stay in Pittsburgh (38.4% as a freshman), though he's got the quickness and athleticism to get into the paint as well. Not that Penn State will be short in the penetration department - Frazier and Newbill are certainly capable - but having that third/fourth guard to take some pressure off freshmen Graham Woodward and Geno Thorpe gives Penn State the added flexibility to run a true four-guard set, much like Chambers did during his time on the bench during Villanova's mid-ought heydays. You probably won't see it as much more than a wrinkle, as the Nittany Lion forwards have been playing well in their own right, but having that lineup in the arsenal certainly won't hurt if PSU needs some quick buckets.

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