Friday, June 24, 2011

Celtics' Pick Had Success Vs. MAAC Teams

Your hoopscribe certainly won't profess to be a professional basketball scout, but I will claim to have a working knowledge of talent ... enough to predict with some accuracy which players will have success in the professional ranks.

That said I will congratulate the Boston Celtics for the manueverings on draft day to wind up with Purdue's slender 6-foot-10 center/forward Ju Juan Johnson after a trade of first-round draft picks with the New Jersey Nets.

And while Johnson obviously is not from the MAAC, the likelihood is that a couple of conference coaches would agree with my belief that he will have a nice pro future.

Those would be Siena's Mitch Buonaguro (and, former Saints' coach Fran McCaffery) and Saint Peter's John Dunne.

Their respective programs had their seasons end (Siena's in 2010 and the Peacocks' this season) at the hands of Purdue, and particularly Johnson, in first-round NCAA tournament games over the past two years.

Siena fell victim to Purdue, 72-64, in the 2009-10 NCAA tournament when McCaffery was directing the MAAC program and Buonaguro was his lead assistant. Johnson was more than a handful for the Saints, one player they had difficulty matching up with. Johnson finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in the contest.

In this year's NCAA event's first round Johnson was just about as good, getting 16 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.

A few days prior to the game Saint Peter's coach Dunne expressed the difficulty of matching up with an athletic 6-10 player, the likes of which he did not have on his roster.

"We'll try to keep him out of the paint as much as we can and try to make his shots a little more difficult than usual," said Dunne.

While watching the game it was clear the Peacocks did force Johnson to get most of his points from the perimeter but to no avail. He still had little difficulty scoring, particularly early when the Boilermakers gained immediate control. And, Johnson was just as tough with his rebounding, ensuring Saint Peter's rarely got more than on shot on its possessions.

What your blogger saw was an athletically gifted 6-10 player with a nice shooting touch out to 17 or 18 feet, good timing when contesting shots and an ability to get rebounds in traffic despite a relatively slender frame.

Johnson will certainly need to bulk up to succeed in the pro game, and Celtics' coach Doc Rivers joked about that, telling the Boston Globe: "I bring him (Johnson) to my house to feed him every day if I have to."

Johnson appears to have most of the requisite physical tools to make it in the NBA. In fact, his game is very reminiscent of former 6-11 Rider standout Jason Thompson, who has had two strong seasons thus far in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.

Far be it from me to predict stardom for Johnson, but based on what he did against MAAC teams over the past two seasons ... your hoopscribe thinks he's got a real chance for a nice pro career.

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