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Replacing Markell Johnson will not be easy

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The four-year point guard meant a lot to NC State

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Markell Johnson’s time at NC State is over. Abruptly and unfairly, NC State is now forced to turn its attention to replacing the senior point guard before Johnson could get a last shot at the postseason. So it goes.

Johnson had something of an up and down final year, but for all the criticisms prompted by his inconsistencies, the senior guard still managed to lead the ACC in assists and earn second-team All-ACC honors, the highest individual honor a player has earned under Kevin Keatts. While it’s true that Johnson could have been much more as a senior than he was, he was still the most important player on the floor. State is going to miss Johnson more than many realize, or maybe more than they want to admit.

The reason for this is two-fold. Johnson is not just gone, but there’s no experience to replace him. Barring the addition of a transfer, next year’s team will spend a lot of time being piloted by a freshman point guard. The talent of the freshmen Keatts will have is certainly not lacking, but an inexperienced lead guard operating an offense so heavily dependent on point guard decision making is going to lead to some growing pains.

How severe these growing pains are will depend on how quickly one of State’s young point guards adjusts to the college game. State will certainly have options with two incoming freshmen point guards and combo guard Dereon Seabron already in the program. Seabron is an explosive athlete, as is Shakeel Moore. The latter of those two appears to be a pretty strong jumpshooter as well. Cam Hayes is a top 50 recruit in the country, so there is obviously no shortage of athleticism and potential in this group, but the three have combined to play exactly zero minutes of college basketball.

The good news is the surrounding cast at least figures to offer so much more than the previous two did. State is not likely to find itself in a situation similar to the end of Markell Johnson’s junior season, where the point guard was basically carrying the team. The Pack figures to be a better perimeter shooting team and should have more individual playmakers than either of the last two groups. It feels like a good situation for a young point guard to walk into, and how effective the Pack’s youngins are at taking advantage of that will go a long way in determining the success of next year’s team.