Brandon Johns Jr, a sophomore forward from East Lansing, Michigan is the latest Wolverine we are profiling ahead of the 2019-20 Michigan Basketball season, the program’s first under new coach Juwan Howard.
The Story So Far
Johns Jr. committed to John Beilein ahead of his senior year at East Lansing High School (yes, that East Lansing). Despite the constant presence of Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo at many of Johns prep games, the 16th-ranked power forward and second best player in the state of Michigan (per 247 Sports) elected to become a Wolverine.
A highly coveted recruit, Johns Jr. found the transition to the college game to be a slow process under Beilein. The former coach spoke highly of Johns ability throughout the year, but we did not get many glimpses of a fully unleashed Johns. The one example that showed Johns potential being put into production was Michigan’s home win over Indiana last year. Filling in for an injured Isaiah Livers, Johns scored a career-high eight points and collected eight rebounds while shooting four-of-five from the field with two dunks. Over the first 28 games of his career, Johns only averaged 4.2 minutes per game, exceeding 10-plus minutes only four times.
Johns finished his East Lansing High School career having great success both individually and as the leader of the Trojans. He never fully got a chance to prove himself during his freshman year and is seeking a fresh start under Juwan Howard’s leadership this year.
Unfortunately for Johns Jr., his position as a forward off the bench will have to wait a little longer. He was spotted on campus on Oct. 20 wearing a walking boot, and Michigan Basketball confirmed Johns Jr. suffered an ankle sprain on his right foot and his timeline to return is unclear.
For the sophomore, this is a blow, but not considered to be something that keeps him out long. Once healthy he should have a shot to prove himself and Juwan Howard spoke highly of what Johns Jr. brings to the table entering his second season.
“(He) has a beautiful shot, (he is) athletic and skill-wise he still hasn’t tapped all the way into what he has,” Howard said at Big Ten Media Day. “Once he figures that part out? Woah, this kid’s interesting. And that’s the beauty of working with Brandon and many others like Brandon, when I talk to them at the beginning of practice — great eye contact, trust, you can see I want him and I’m going to do whatever I can to help him get better.”
Once he returns, Johns Jr. will be logging many of his minutes at the four. He also could spell Jon Teske off the bench when Michigan goes for a smaller lineup, or play at the traditional power forward alongside backup center Colin Castleton. Howard’s expectations for Johns Jr. and the level of versatility he can bring to the Wolverines.
“He knows he has an opportunity to play.,” said Howard. “We’re going to lean on him, he can be one of those stretch fours that can be able to guard a ‘2,’ ‘3,’ ‘4’ and ‘5.’ Now it’s basically picking up the concepts and learning the terminology. He’s going to be good.”
Johns had glowing words for his new head coach and mentor as well.
“He’s just been praising me a lot, talking to me positively,” Johns Jr. said on Media Day, via the Detroit Free Press. “Giving me reassurance of what I can do on the court. Just telling me to believe in myself. Always believe.”
While his ankle injury certainly throws a wrench into Michigan’s best laid plans, if Johns Jr. can return healthy, he can make an impact for the 2019-20 Wolverines at the very least off the bench and potentially at the starting four spot. The arrival of Howard presents a brave new era for the Wolverines, and for Johns, it could be the shot he needs to show that his game can be just as explosive at the collegiate level as it was during his decorated prep career.