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Markell Johnson giveth, and Markell Johnson taketh

Nobody likes a press more than this guy.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The majority of NC State’s regulars have seen their numbers boosted by the poor level of competition this season, but this is not entirely a mirage and some real gains are being made. Markell Johnson is one example—he’s looked more comfortable running the point and he is thriving as a disruptive presence in the Wolfpack press.

Giveth And Taketh

Johnson Assist% (rank) Steal%
Johnson Assist% (rank) Steal%
2018 38.3 (18) 4.8 (21)
2017 18.1 (NR) 2.4 (433)

Markell is being credited with an assist on 38.3% of NC State’s made baskets while he is on the floor, so nearly two out of every five made shots while he’s out there are at least partly thanks to his efforts. Experience tends to breed more self-assurance, and no doubt he’s been more assertive in leading the offense this season. (Not playing in the shadow of a lottery pick probably helps too.)

The primary down side to the new Markell Johnson, Basket Choreographer, is turnovers. His turnover rate this season is well above 29%, and that is very bad. He is shouldering more possessions as primary distributor, which is always a risk-reward proposition. This just shows there’s plenty more for him still to learn.

On the defensive side, it’s no surprise that Johnson has been productive in pressing opposing backcourts. I swear he could break the two-deep at cornerback if he stepped onto NC State’s practice field tomorrow. He’s just good at jumping passing lanes and his quickness pays bigger dividends in this system.

He has 24 steals through 10 games after collecting only 26 during his freshman season. Couple more playing time with a more advantageous system (by which I mean a system that actually cares about forcing turnovers) and it’s amazing what can happen.