"D-J-O" just might be the three most important letters in the Marquette basketball alphabet this year.
As a 6'2" combo-guard, Darius Johnson-Odom will play a huge role for a young Golden Eagles squad this season. He is perpetual motion in uniform, capable of making plays all over the court.
DJO will offer a much-needed spark to the rebuilt offense of Coach Williams' Golden Eagles. And many observers close to the Marquette program – myself included – are looking forward to seeing the newcomer step on the hardwood and prove himself against Big East competition.
With Dominic James and Jerel McNeal graduated and out the door, the Golden Eagles will have some large shoes to fill at the guard positions. Johnson-Odom can step in to run the point or provide scoring immediately from the two-guard spot. He is already a proven scorer and distributor – averaging 21.6 points and 4.6 assists per game at Hutchinson Community College last season. And his quick first step gives him the ability to penetrate or create space to shoot from beyond the arc or dish to a teammate.
And with a resume that includes First Team NJCAA All-America honors in 2008-2009, DJO will provide the Golden Eagles with much needed post-high school experience.
To be candid, my opinion on the most exciting MU basketball player to watch this season is biased by the three years I spent watching DJO light up the gymnasium as a classmate at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, N.C.
Johnson-Odom wowed the home crowd with thunderous dunks, three point buckets and Nash-like assists. With consistency, I watched DJO slice through double – and sometimes triple – teams to produce a bucket or a slick assist. He led the WHS Wolverines to a 4A state championship title as a junior, then went on to average 25.1 points-per-game as a senior.
I distinctly remember one game during the 2005-2006 playoffs against Cary High School. Johnson-Odom was drilling shots from beyond the arc, and no Cary defender could stick with him off the dribble. With Cary up by a point entering the fourth quarter, DJO led a furious rally – en route to a 40-point night of his own – to give Wakefield an 85-69 win.
Now, after a long journey from high school to junior college, with a stop at prep school in between, Darius Johnson-Odom has finally arrived on the national scene.
And this winter, don't be surprised to hear a three-letter chant rise above the raucous roars of the Bradley Center student section.
Which player performance are you most hotly anticipating? Join the discussion on our message board.