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Kevin Johnson Doesn’t Need Your Attention, Just an AAC Title

Johnson has bounced back from a rough start to be a vital member of the Bearcats AAC title run, even if he doesn’t get the spotlight very often.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Johnson would not be confused for one of Cincinnati’s stars. Gary Clark has the hardware, Kyle Washington has the stats, Troy Caupain has the leadership and Jacob Evans and Jarron Cumberland are young scorers. He’s never been named to an all-conference team or the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll and he’s not going to get there this season.

But that’s not a knock against KJ, who has been hanging around playing ball for the Bearcats for four years and, in his senior campaign, has stepped up his game.

It wasn’t always like that. The Cincinnati-native struggled mightily during the first weeks of the season. In the first four games of the year he made only 15.4 percent of his shots from three-point range and 23.5 percent from the floor overall while averaging 2.5 points per game. As recently as Feb. 1 he was still shooting below .300 from long range, which was not exactly what UC had hoped for from a player pegged as a three and D specialist.

However, he has really turned things on lately, especially since the beginning of the month. In the last five games he is averaging 11.4 points per game, while tallying shooting splits that would make Steph Curry blush (.525/.464/1.000). He has made at least two three-pointers in all five of those games and has been crafty enough to rip away 1.4 steals per contest as well. His best game of the stretch was the most recent one, as he drained 5-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with 15 points in an 80-60 win over Tulsa.

Powered by this late season surge, Johnson has cobbled together a career year. He is on pace to set career-highs in a host of areas. Am I going to list all of them? You better believe it. Minutes (28.2 PG), field goals (3.1 PG), field goals attempted (7.8 PG), field goal percentage (.403), two-point field goal percentage (.500), three-pointers (1.6 PG), three-pointers attempted (4.6 PG), steals (1.4 PG), rebounds (2.2 PG) and points (8.9 PG). OK, maybe that’s not all of them but my fingers are tired and I’m sure you get the point.

In addition to the counting stats, Johnson is doing a serviceable job at a deeper level. He ranks second on the team in three-point attempt rate (.592) and has posted acceptable to strong numbers in true shooting percentage (.527) and effective field goal percentage (.502). His work on offense has been coupled with solid play on the defensive side of things. Considered by some to be the best one-on-one wing defender on the roster, Johnson is fifth on the team in defensive win shares. Although his defensive rating is actually closer to the bottom in comparison to the rest of the team, his 96.3 mark isn’t anything to sneeze at.

In summation, Johnson is doing just what he needs to do for UC to be successful. He doesn’t dominate the ball, tying for ninth with Tre Scott on the team in usage percentage (17.5), but he is making the most of his opportunities, especially lately. He is also maintaining a strong defensive posture and making life difficult for opposing backcourts. There’s not much more that could be asked of him.

But what can Johnson ask for himself? An AAC title for starters. As long as he keeps doing his part, there’s no reason to think that request can’t be fulfilled.