Pitt Players in the Pro-Am: Durand Johnson

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Junior guard Durand Johnson won't play in the Pro-Am on the 23rd, but there are still areas in which he can improve this summer.

My guess is that Johnson still needs the full 9-12 months to recover from the injury, and he probably won't be 100% back until his senior year.  Obviously, that means he's extremely unlikely to participate in the Pro-Am a week from now, but there are a few things that Johnson needs to work on.

Now, before someone brings this up in the comments section, I fully embrace his role as an overly assertive guard who brings instant offense coming off the bench.  The Panthers clearly missed his presence last year, especially when the team played hot potato down the stretch until the ball found its way into former Panther Lamar Patterson's hands.  Still, there are aspects of Johnson's game that can be improved that don't require him to put a pounding on his knee while he is rehabbing.

For starters, his shot selection was definitely questionable at times.  Again, I liked his assertiveness on the offensive end; that is something Pitt desperately needed at times late in the season.  However, Johnson took his fair share of contested shots and often dribbled into a harder one than he originally had.

Tying into that is the fact that he probably didn't need to take as many triples as he attempted.  He took 65 three-pointers in just 16 games, good for a little over four per contest.  That isn't really a terrible statistic by itself; the real issue was that he only shot 33.8% from beyond the arc while playing just under 20 minutes per game.

Johnson certainly isn't one who likes to move the ball very often.  I won't say that he is completely selfish, but he certainly wasn't looking to find his teammates on a lot of the possessions that he used.  He doesn't have poor court vision, albeit not amazing, he simply looks for his own offense first.

I don't think, nor expect, for him to become a high assist guy or even a setup man.  It would be nice if he could at least get the ball moving around a little bit more so that defenses can't sit on his shot, knowing that is coming.

Lastly, I'd like to see him go to the basket a lot more.  He was arguably the Panthers most athletic player before the injury, and he got to the free throw line a reasonable amount.  Johnson is a solid free throw shooter, holding a career average of 77.6% at the charity stripe.  If he can do a little bit more slashing, especially from the weak-side, it will go a long way in helping Pitt get some easy baskets.  Also, layups generally get microwave-type scorers like Johnson some momentum.

Overall, it's going to be really hard to add a lot to his game given the recovery time for his injury.  Although, I think most fans would agree that Johnson can certainly improve with some of the mental aspects of the game and his own basketball IQ.  He'll be relied upon to be more of a leader this season, and making some more sound decisions on the court will definitely set a solid example for the younger players.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz

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