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VT Hoops: Making the Grade A Look At Will Johnston

The next installment in an ongoing series reviewing the performance of VT men's basketball players from this past season and projecting into 2014-15.

Grant Halverson

Former walk-on Will Johnston was rewarded for his hard work and dedication to the program with a scholarship for the 2013-14 season by former coach James Johnson.

Johnston is known primarily for his tireless effort and excellent three point shooting ability. Those qualities helped him contribute in his minutes off the bench, sometimes even playing out of position.

Johnston averaged 3.2 PPG and 2.1 RPG for the Hokies this past season. Rarely does an average so accurately sum up a player's primary role. Johnston was asked to come in, snag a loose ball or two and drain a three pointer if he got an open look. He did those things well.

Will shot 36% from outside and made at least one shot from three point range in 10 of 18 ACC games.

That's the only offense Johnston provided however as he attempted just seven shots inside the arc, making two.

Johnston's minutes skyrocketed from 322 in 2012-13 to 598 last season. That's just one minute shy of Ben Emelogu's total putting Johnston fifth on the team in minutes played.

Clearly, the production wasn't there to justify so much playing time but as usual the Hokies found themselves with a load of injuries and a very short bench.

At times, Will was forced to spell Jarell Eddie at small forward putting him at a defensive disadvantage. Johnston lacks the size at 6'4" to match up at the three spot, and he doesn't quite have the lateral quickness to keep up with the speedy guards in the ACC.

Still, Johnston knows his role and gives whatever he has with reliability which is something Tech desperately needs from more players.

It's hard to see Will getting too many minutes next season with the group of freshman guards coming into the program, but every team needs a player like him willing to bust it in practice and sacrifice for the good of the team. Of course there's always the chance he gets playing time due to injuries, which frankly will only be avoided if the program's luck changes.

Maybe this is the year that the injury bug doesn't show up in Blacksburg. But if it again rears its ugly head, it's nice to know Buzz Williams can look down the bench and find a kid with the grit and toughness of Will Johnston.

Overall Grade: C+


That's almost as likely a shot as shooting for the Sudan!

Flyers13's Haute Tachez

Will Johnston keeps plugging away and eating minutes whenever we've needed him and that's admirable. But even he would tell you that it isn't ideal for a player of his caliber to get 10 starts in a season. Due to attrition and injury, Johnston was pressed into action far too often.

And as Cates said above he wasn't much use inside the arc. And because of his extremely limited ability to create his own shot off the dribble, or get to the goal off the bounce, we're left with a spot up shooter that nobody ever left alone for the most part due to poor spacing, and a lack of a guard who could gain the paint and draw attention with regularity. I know Wilson got to the goal alot on his own and drew a ton of fouls, but those were usually after the desired play broke down and Wilson's head was down by then and his purpose singular.

Here are some stats I found interesting:

  • Johnston played in 29 of 30 games, started 10, and played in double digit minutes in 24. He played more than 25 minutes in 14 of those. We lost all 11 of those ACC games he played that many minutes after winning games vs Furman, Winthrop and UMD-Eastern Shore.
  • His rebounding per minute is in the bottom quartile of the ACC as he pulled in more than five rebounds in just four games.
  • His defensive rating was the worst on the team per SCACC Hoops Tempo-Based Stats for any player not named Adam Smith whose own stats were skewed due to an injury-shortened campaign.
  • Amusingly enough, due to his penchant for shooting only three point shots, his ORating (which is a metric designed to determine a players points per possession) was extremely high. It was 7th in the entire ACC due to the fact that he didn't touch it much, and when he did he put up just three pointers. He didn't muddy his numbers up with "pointless" twos. It's odd to see his name up there with scorers like Andre Dawkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connagughton, and Marcus Paige. But he's not the only one in the league who benefited from this imperfect stat, as there are two or three other outliers up top there too.
  • Will was held to a goose egg in 11 of 29 games he played. And to just a single three point shot in six others. That's 17 games at one FG or less. His season high was Furman with 12 points and 5 rebounds.
  • He was 16 of 53 from distance in ACC play for just 30.2%. This is 45.3% from two. Maybe he WOULD have been better off driving some.

None of the above is the fault of Will Johnston. I think he's probably the perfect practice player, and I'm happy he earned his scholarship for having to toil under such conditions. However, going forward it will be interesting to see how Buzz Williams handles the former walk-ons like Johnston and Christian Beyer. Meanwhile we thank Will for a hard-fought 2013-2014 season and continue to look to the future with excitement.

Player Grade: B ....he's a former walk-on, he played a ton. We kept some games close. He ran some emergency point guard, these were not ideal circumstances. Hat tip for not embarrassing himself in the ACC.

Nuestro Cassell es su Cassell. We still have a few of these grades to get to, we hope you are enjoying the series.