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Player Profiles: Kaleb Johnson

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NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next two weeks, St. Patrick and Run DSR are bringing you all of their hot takes on this season’s Hoyas as they get ready to launch the worst FS1 sports talk show since “Undisputed.”

Up next, Kaleb Johnson:

NAME: Kaleb Johnson

YEAR: Sophomore

POSITION: Wing

HEIGHT: 6-foot-6

WEIGHT: 205

What we got last year:

When Kaleb committed to Georgetown over Auburn and Oklahoma State relatively little was known about him. The player that arrived at the Hilltop was a rangy, athletic wing who was used more as a defensive specialist than a legitimate rotation player last year.

His best game likely came early in the season against Duke, when he scored 14 points (including a half-court heave just before the end of the first half) and grabbed 4 rebounds in 22 minutes. I remember coming away especially impressed with Johnson’s game after seeing him live at MSG against Wisconsin and Duke. He was all over the floor defensively and has an appealing skillset offensively, often times bringing up the ball and initiating the offense. More importantly, he can get to the rim effortlessly off the dribble. While his offensive game is overall still quite raw – he only averaged 3 points per game last year – he showed clear signs of potential.

But Kaleb was used very inconsistently in Big East play, seeing single-digit minutes in half of all conference games. It surprised me that he didn’t see more playing time when the losses kept mounting for the Hoyas – especially after he drew Otto Porter comparisons from JT3. Kaleb finished the season the way he started it – as a top defender on the team but too limited offensively to really be much more than a contributor.

What to expect this year:

I’ll start by saying this: I’m very much on board the Kaleb Johnson train this year. I think he’s going to turn out as one of our most improved players from last year. He’ll fit in well in the (theoretically?) revamped offense, as he can do a lot of damage in transition or on the secondary break. Granted, I have no idea what this re-imagined offense is going to look like, but in my head Kaleb would seem to thrive. Defensively, I think he has a high ceiling – the Jabril-type player who we can assign the toughest matchup to.

Kaleb’s offensive game is still an unfinished product. Last season, he shot better from the field (58%) and from three (54%) than he did from the free throw line (52%). To me this suggests his shot selection is probably better than his actual shooting stroke at this point – not necessarily a bad thing on its own. But disappointingly, Kaleb continued his struggles at the line during Kenner – which is a shame, because his ability to get in the lane means he could do a lot of damage from the line.

This is not to say he didn’t improve this summer. Kaleb showed an improved ability to finish at the rim and through contact, using his length and athleticism to his advantage. He also appears to have bulked up slightly, as he looks overall more mature on the court. Finally, Kaleb is probably a better ball-handler than some of our bigger wings, such as Copeland, Cameron, and Derrickson.

I’m hopeful JT3 uses Kaleb more consistently this year. Coach has indicated that Kaleb really rounded out his game this summer. Our suddenly overcrowded roster means this praise won’t necessarily equate to minutes. But given that Kaleb can play – and more importantly, guard – multiple positions, there should be plenty of time for the young wing to prove himself.