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B.J. Johnson Looks Primed for a Breakout Season for Syracuse

The sophomore forward steps up in a huge way in Orange’s win over Kennesaw State.

Michael Gbinije was in street clothes for Friday night’s game against Kennesaw State, which meant sophomore B.J. Johnson got the chance to play and earn more playing time in the future.


Johnson wasted no time. In his freshmen campaign, he scored 14 total points all season. Against the Owls on Friday night, he had 11 in the first half and finished with 19. With the loss of key players from last year’s team, Johnson showed his desire for more playing time and it caught the attention of Jim Boeheim.


“B.J. did a good job, he got some open looks,” Boeheim said. “He made a couple of good plays early and got a couple of offensive rebounds.”


Johnson did not look like the freshman forward who got a few minutes off the bench here and there. He played like he had been playing this game at this level for more than he really has.


He showed everyone the type of player he is and the hidden skills and talents he brings to the court. Strong play from him where he can move the ball and find the open player is essential this season because Syracuse has lost so much. The younger players, specifically the sophomores, like Johnson, have to step up and not make freshmen mistakes. They cannot turn the ball over and they have to play smart and experienced basketball in big situations.


Although Johnson got more playing time specifically because of Gbinije being out of the lineup, this game should give him more minutes, especially in non-conference play. He proved he can play at the collegiate level because he made decisions to help his team win, whether it was a shot, a drive to the basket, or being the man under the basket to grab the rebound. Even when Gbinije comes back against Hampton on Sunday, Boeheim should feel comfortable putting Johnson in the game.


“He’s a good player,” Boeheim said. “He’s a good shooter.”


When Boeheim says Johnson is a good shooter, Syracuse needs more of his sharp shooting, especially when the rest of the team struggles. The Orange did not get much of a performance from Kaleb Joseph, and Boeheim described his mistakes, such as turnovers, as freshmen mistakes that are expected. When these mistakes happen, it is up to players like Johnson to step in when a performance such as his is least expected.


“Every time we get an opportunity, our job is to just give the team a spark by playing good defense and knocking down open shots when the time comes,” Johnson said.


Even with Gbinije expected back for Sunday’s game against Hampton, the Orange need guys to step up and contribute. Different players in different roles helps this team establish what it is and the type of team it will be for the rest of the season.


Posted:  Austin Pollack
The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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