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Can Jajuan Johnson build on last year’s performance?

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It took Jajuan Johnson a couple of seasons to figure it out, but he was able to find his niche as one of the Golden Eagles’ top scorers and contributors last season.

Marquette even awarded him with the team’s Most Improved Player Award, and deservingly so.

Coming into Milwaukee as a consensus Top-100 nationally ranked recruit--reaching as high as 27th on ESPN 100--he failed to live up to the hype in his first two years.

It wasn’t entirely his fault. In his freshman year, then-head coach Buzz Williams put the brakes on freshmen during a tumultuous, disappointing 17-15 season after reaching the Elite Eight a year before. In his sophomore season, Marquette welcomed new head coach Steve Wojciechowski, but the team struggled with a losing record. Johnson played a bigger role on the court, but his 7.3 points per game was nothing to brag about, especially when he shot just 37.3 percent on the floor and an even worse 21.9 percent from long range.

Last season was different though. Johnson enjoyed a resurgent year as an all-around threat. He broke the double digit scoring mark, averaging 10.2 points per game. He had his best season by far, with his 326 combined points surpassing the total number of points he scored in his first two years. Johnson was able to achieve this while being efficient. He shot 51.0 percent overall and posted a 38.5 percent shooting performance from beyond the arc—both career highs. In fact, his shooting percentage led all other Marquette guards and was the second-highest on the team behind classmate Luke Fischer.

Johnson also proved to be an asset defensively. His 6-foot-5 frame, combined with his 6-9 wingspan, was put to good use on the defensive end of the court. By itself, his 1.6 steals per game aren’t astonishing but the rate in which he did so, is.

According to KenPom, Johnson boasted the 38th highest steal percentage in the country last season. It was also the second-highest in the Big East, trailing only Providence’s Kris Dunn.

It’s clear that Johnson made a great leap forward last season, but he now has the foundation to continue to build onto that for his senior year.

With Henry Ellenson, the team’s leading scorer in 2015-16 in the NBA, there is an opportunity for Johnson to take an even bigger role for the Golden Eagles. Granted, the same can be said for the team’s young core and the other veterans, but Johnson hasn’t even tapped into his fullest potential yet.

He played the fifth-most minutes for Marquette last season, expect that number—along with his statistics in other categories—to rise.