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Returning Player Refresher: Kevin Johnson

Johnson has been a consistent presence for the Bearcats basketball team, but can he take a step forward and prove to be a team leader in his senor year?

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati native, Kevin Johnson, has proven to be a consistent contributor in his first three seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats. He steps into his senior season as a leader for a young Bearcats roster in the hopes of reaching that glorious tournament at the end of March. The veteran players on the team alongside Johnson will be Senior Troy Caupain and junior Gary Clark. All three of these players will have their hands full showing a young, talented roster how to grow and succeed at the college level. Outside of merely being an experienced voice at practice and in the locker room, Johnson will have to step up his offensive game on the court.

Johnson’s statistics in his first three years with the Bearcats don’t jump off the page at you, but don't let that fool you, he still brings a lot to the table. He has averaged about 17 minutes per game, just above five points per game, while shooting 37% percent from the field. His efficiency has taken a bit of a dip from his freshman year, but that is mostly is due to fact that he has shot the ball at a higher rate. His statistics have lingered in middle of the pack but his overall game should not be measured purely on his offensive stats, because his biggest impact is made off the ball and on defense.

He has increased his rebounding, assists and steals numbers every year while cutting down on his turnovers. Johnson has found a way to fill up the stat sheet in all areas to give the Bearcats their best chance to win. Additionally, his man-to-man defense has made him an amazing asset when facing off against top notch guards. KJ is usually given the assignment of locking down the best guards on opposing teams, which allows scorers like Caupain and Jacob Evans room to focus more on the offensive side of the ball. So you could say that Johnson's defense helps the offense in a big way.

One slightly alarming statistic about Johnson's time at UC is his free throw percentage. As a freshman, he was shooting 86% from the charity stripe, but as a junior, he shot only 75%. An 11% drop in free throw percentage is something to keep on your mind, but it isn't something to freak out about. He only attempted 32 free throws last season and capitalized on 24 on those opportunities. If Johnson can get to the line more often, he will be able to get in rhythm and raise his free throw percentage to where it once was. Mick Cronin's offensive scheme usually results in a lot of 3-point attempts and back door cuts, which helps Johnson chances to reach the line.

In his senior year campaign, I expect Johnson's role to be very similar to his first three years as a Bearcat. First and foremost, he will continue to be a lockdown defender. Secondly, he will act as a mature offensive swingman with experience that can help out the talented youth on the UC basketball team. Although Johnson's numbers haven't ever been anything to drool over, his impact on Bearcats basketball in his three years is unquestioned and there’s every expectation that his senior season will be his best on yet.