Before the season commenced, James Johnson was named a preseason candidate for John Wooden Award. Pretty big shoes to fill for an un-hyped sophomore on a young, inexperienced team with a still-ingesting coach. Speaking of its innocence, The Demon Deacons went 0-3 against ranked opponents in 2007-08 and has gone 1-11 overall since Chris Paul’s departure in 04-05.
But back to the bulky figure draped in eggshell white and roasted gold linen whose helped Wake off to their best start in school history. Johnson has quietly been the backbone of the No. 11 Demon Deacons (8-0), while playmaker Jeff Teague and top recruit Al-Farouq Aminu inhale the mass of notoriety.
He had an enchanted performance notching 14 points and 14 rebounds in the 76 Classic Championship game against Baylor. The New York-product also sent away three shots to lead Wake Forest.
In their next game against Indiana, Johnson again propelled his team to victory. As freshman teammatel Farouq-Aminu began to congeal after a torrid start (scored 10 of Wake’s first 23 points), Johnson scored 15 of their next 24 points, going 3-3 from behind the arc and flying down the lane, decapitating helpless Indiana G Matt Roth on a thunderous one-handed dunk.
Against conference giants Duke, UNC, and Maryland last season, Johnson scored a combined 71 points on 57.1% FG shooting and 44.4% from long range.
James averaged 23.6 PPG, 12.6 RPG, and 2.5 BPG versus the trio and tack on the fact that they upset Duke by 13(Johnson contributed 24 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal) and his 2 double-doubles during the stretch was the longest of any freshman in the ACC. Pretty impressive for an
In the first eight games of the 2008-09 season, Johnson has averaged 14.4 PPG, 7.9RPG, 1.4 BPG, and 2 SPG. The 6-foot-9 sophomore also helps stretch the floor, shooting over 40% from downtown (7-17). Contrary to the popular ideology of big men only shooting a handful of three pointers and having great percentages, Johnson has already attempted more bombs than shooting guard L.D Williams (1-13).
This season, the combo forward ranks in the Top 10 in the ACC in field goal percentage, rebounds, steals, and blocks and is second on Wake in a plethora of categories—points, minutes, rebounds, steals, blocks, and three point percentage as the main culprits.
For a player his size, he has immaculate ball-handling and loves advancing the ball up the floor (channeling his inner Len Chappell). A multi-dimensional scorer, No. 23 can drive to the rim, convert on put-backs, and post up any defender thanks to his envious strength. He’s also a plausible jump shooter and likes to sense his opponents as he backs them down before relying on his patent fade-away ritual from the baselines.
He’s also an underrated rebounder and uses his immense upper body to position himself around the glass.
If Johnson can continue his efforts, Wake Forest will become even more revered—No. 11 ranking highest in over five seasons—and possibly the Wooden Award.