Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 25 Player Countdown. Each day, we publish a new article counting down the 25 best players in the Atlantic 10 this past season, as voted by our staff. Today, we feature #9 B.J. Johnson of La Salle.
It wasn’t a season to remember for La Salle fans, and the release of head coach John Giannini wrapped up the story of 2017-18. The Explorers struggled to get anything going in conference play and fell one shot short of advancing to Thursday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. B.J. Johnson was the star of the show all season, and with his sidekick Pookie Powell, the Explorers scared quite a few teams (look at Villanova in non-conference play). However, this team struggled to get much help outside of these two, and Johnson’s absence next season will be difficult for Ashley Howard to replace in his first year as La Salle head coach.
B.J. Johnson never failed to reach double figures scoring when he stepped on the floor, and for that reason, I thought he deserved to be a bit higher than 9th. Probably his best performance of the season came at home against Rhode Island, a game in which the Explorers would fall just short of the upset. Johnson went for 29 points and pulled down an incredible 23 rebounds as well. While that could have been the spark that led La Salle to a solid finish to the regular season, the Explorers would fall just short and lose 3 of their last 5.
Johnson scored at least 20 points 17 times last season, so his performances were always up to par; subsequently, there were few that stood out over the others. His knack for scoring the basketball and providing constant production on offense will be something that’s surely missed in Gola Arena next season.
87.8%. The senior was clutch from the free throw line, hitting 87.8% of his attempts throughout league play. While La Salle didn’t get as many big wins as it hoped coming down the stretch, Johnson’s production at the free throw line certainly kept this team close.
13. B.J. Johnson, a player not normally known for his defense, had 13 blocked shots in conference play compared to just 6 throughout non-conference play, and to put this in more context, Johnson missed 4 A-10 games. His 2.6% block percentage ranked 20th in the conference, and that was an improvement from last season at just 1.5%. He began to develop as both an offensive juggernaut and a defensive weapon.
Johnson was certainly the heart and soul of La Salle’s 2017-18 team, and it was only his second season as an Explorer. La Salle has a knack for bringing in talent from the transfer market, but without John Giannini around, it will be interesting to see how that changes. Sure, Johnson was an incredible in his 2 seasons in Philly, but he was only around for 2 years and couldn’t make an impact on the program beyond that. If Ashley Howard can start to bring in 4 year talent by getting hot on the recruiting trail, we could see the program start to turn a corner.
Previously: #10 Shavar Newkirk