6’4 190lb SG Darin Johnson is the high-level athlete and natural scorer most D1 coaches strive to move into the fold. Johnson attends northern California’s Sheldon High after playing last season for the Franklin High Wildcats. Rivals.com lists Johnson as a 3-star and the #123 recruit in the Class of 2013. Yet to commit, Johnson has offers in hand from most of the top D1 basketball programs on the West coast. Teamed this season with 4-star SF (SDSU commit) Dakarai Allen, Johnson and company appear primed for a run at a California state championship. With Allen’s recent commit to Coach Steve Fisher and the San Diego State Aztecs, there exists a real possibility the two NoCal hoopers team up beyond their high school playing days. For now, the wings will focus on the 2012-13 season and making an indelible mark on the Sheldon High Wildcat basketball legacy.
Johnson is an above the rim athlete and an innovative scorer. His 6’4 frame, in concert with significant bounce, allow the ’13 shooting guard to thrive in transition and finish against most defenders. With an improving left-hand (finish) and evolving outside game, Johnson is developing into a complete scorer capable of 20+ any given night. Last season (2011-12) while with the aforementioned Franklin Wildcats, he put up 16.8 points per game, and scored in double figures in all but one of his squad’s 28 contests. Johnson scored a season high 28 points against Davis (Ca.) and logged his lone double-double in pulling down 10 rebounds. Coming of a sophomore campaign (2010-11) during which he averaged 8.0 points and 2.2 rebounds, Johnson burst onto the ’13 recruiting scene with his breakout junior season performance and head-turning summer play. Previously outside the Rivals.com Top 150, Johnson turned doubters into supporters and secured the #123 spot. Strong off the dribble and capable of creating his own shot, the 6’4 wing brings athleticism and a scorer’s mentality each time he hits the floor. Known for high energy and a tireless style of play, Johnson wears down defenders and carries the ability to capitalize on the slightest drop in focus/technique. An offshoot of his physical and aggressive play is the frequency with which he shoots free throws. In 2011-12, Johnson attempted 145 FT’s and hit on 79%. Owing to his high-level body control, Johnson tallied just 49 PF’s (1.75 per game) over the 28 game season. Should his game continue to evolve, there is little doubt Johnson takes his skills to the D1 high-major level.
AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY
Although a consistent scorer, Johnson has yet to develop a consistent long-range game. Hitting a total of 26 3-point shots in 2011-12, the 6’4 wing is much more the slash and drive scorer than the behind the arc bomber. As the level of defender/defense increases, Johnson may find it more difficult to blow by an opponent when that opponent is not honoring the SG’s jumper. A decent passer (2.5 apg 2011-12), and strong off the dribble, Johnson has room to tighten up his ball security. His 65 turnovers (2011-12) topped by one, his assists (64). He possesses too much talent to carry an Assist/Turnover ratio below 1.5 or thereabouts. There’s a tendency to force shots early in a possession, and over dribble when looking to drive the basket. Neither presents a substantial challenge, but each should be addressed before further exploited at the next level. Johnson is a high level athlete, but to this point, his statistical impact has funneled to the scoring column. Last season he checked in with 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.1 blocks, per game. Every club needs a quality scorer, but today’s game calls for more diverse impact. I expect a player of Johnson’s skillset and frame to tally 5.5+ rebounds, 3.5+ assists, and 1.2+ steals, per game. None of the listed should fall beyond the ’13 SG’s reach, but each should be considered an expected minimum.
I expect big things of Darin Johnson come the start of the 2012-13 Sheldon High (Ca.) season. Teamed with small forward Dakarai Allen, Johnson will help form one of the West coast’s top wing tandems. I project Johnson in the 17-18.5 point, 5.0-6.0 rebound, and 3.0-4.0 assist range, as he wraps his high school career. As mentioned, a California state title, is well within Sheldon’s grasp. The D1 projection is a far more complex one to pin down. I expect Johnson will score at any level, but his opportunities and minutes may be limited without increased production in other categories, and a more consistent game from long-range. The skill and talent are present. It may simply come down to finding a system best fitting his talents. He is strong in transition and can create his own shot. He most likely needs to proceed with the jump shot reps until there’s improved confidence and consistency. Rebounds and defense are often the result of technique and determination. Given his frenetic energy and relentless pace, Johnson may just be short upper tier coaching. New Sheldon teammate Allen is a monster on the defensive end and is a walking advertisement for technique and coaching. I expect Johnson will benefit from his new school’s coaching staff and his game will continue its development. Assuming the defense and rebounding come, and I presume they will, and Johnson dials up his 3pt game, I have no problem projecting good things of his D1 career. No stretch to expect 14-16 points, 5-6 rebounds, 3-4 assists, and 1.5-2 steals per game. As Johnson enters his junior and senior seasons at the collegiate, I expect he will receive All-Conference considerations and serve as a keystone member for his squad.