Akron (OH) St. Vincent/St. Mary's head basketball coach Dru Joyce is no stranger to big time talent. For four years he coached the country's best non-pro basketball player in Lebron James. King James has moved on, but Joyce is still cultivating the hoop talent in his area. Marcus Johnson is the latest college prospect to come under his tutelage and the young man has already made a name for himself despite limited exposure.
At the Nike Hoop Jamboree this summer, Scout.com's national basketball analyst Dave Telep called Johnson, "the most explosive player at the camp." Other pundits in attendance offered similar commentary. The explosive guard brought his game to Ann Arbor last month and, as was reported in our Sept 26th open gym report, wowed players and onlookers with his athletic basket attacks.
The one question mark about Johnson's game is his jumpshot. Many scouts suggest that he's a consistent jumper away from being one of the top twenty players in his class. GBW spoke to both Coach Joyce and Marcus recently about the young man's game, his visit to Ann Arbor, and what will go into his college choice.
First we spoke with Coach Joyce.
Tell me about Marcus' game.
Coach Joyce: "Marcus is 6-2.5 and about 180 pounds. Very very athletic. The last time we measured he had a 38 or 39-inch vertical. That's a true vertical. One step and then explosion into the air. He can really get to the basket."
How did his season go last year?
Coach Joyce: "He averaged 14 points and five rebounds and 3 assists per game. He's a great team guy and last year he kind of deferred to some seniors that we had on the team. All five of my starters averaged double figures. This year I expect that average to go up. It will have to for us to be the team that I want us to be. He'll probably average somewhere closer to 20."
What position do you see him at in college?
Coach Joyce: "Marcus is a combo guard. He can handle both positions. I use him to push the ball. He does need to get better. He has been working hard on that and it's really improving. He's a very explosive score. He elevates so high and so quick that he's always able to get to the basket. He'll probably to be able to play both spots in college."
How does Marcus compare with some of other players in Ohio's deep class of 2006?
Coach Joyce: "Marcus didn't play a lot this summer because he had a foot fracture. He didn't get a chance to showcase his skills like some of these other guys. As far as the state of Ohio goes, the only player that has consistently shown better than Marcus is Daequan Cook. David Lighty is a great player, but he only plays great sometimes."
When will he begin to narrow his list down?
Coach Joyce: "We're going to be discussing that. Marcus is looking for a school with good academics and where there is a need for him. He has the athletic ability to contribute right away. It's not all about the glamour of the situation. I always tell my kids to use basketball, don't let it use you. Marcus can use what he has to get a free education and maybe even go on to the pros. That's why he has to make this decision carefully. We'll be sitting down going over the schools and taking a look at the overall situations before determining which ones might be the best fit. Michigan certainly looks to have a favorable situation."
GBW also spoke briefly to Marcus himself.
How did you like your visit to Ann Arbor?
MJ: "It went well. It was the first time I had been there. I liked it a lot. We scrimmaged against some of the other players there and got a chance to play with the college guys. We also toured the gym and went to the football game. I liked the facilities and the locker room. It was a nice visit."
What schools are you hearing from at this point?
Were you a fan of any particular school growing up?
MJ: "Not really."
What part of your game do you need to improve upon the most?
MJ: "My shot."
Will distance from home be a factor?
MJ: "No, I'd travel away from home."