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Player preview: Ohio State freshman Meechie Johnson Jr.

What did the freshman learn in his early entry into the program?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In this article, we continue our Land-Grant Holy Land player previews for the 2021-2022 Ohio State basketball season. Since Duane Washington and EJ Liddell are still undecided about their collegiate future, we are first taking a look at guys we know will return. Next up in our series is a player who seemed to become a fan favorite in his first season as a Buckeye, Meechie Johnson Jr.

WHAT HE HAS DONE: Meechie Johnson Jr. suffered a knee injury during his sophomore season of high school, missed his junior season recovering from that injury and then skipped his senior season of high school to reclassify and in January 2021 to start his Ohio State career early.

Even though his high school play was limited, he still showed plenty of signs of the player that he would become. He averaged almost 24 points per game during his sophomore season before his injury, and in just his second game of high school basketball as a freshman, he dropped 50 points.

Johnson comes from a basketball family pedigree, as his uncle Sonny Johnson Sr. was Mr. Basketball in Ohio in 1998 and attended Ohio University, his cousin Sonny Johnson Jr. is committed to Penn State and Meechie’s father Demetrius played basketball at Kent State University. Meechie’s other uncle Julius played basketball at Miami (OH) and played professionally overseas, while another cousin Marcus is in the 7th grade and certainly looks to be on the path to playing Division I basketball.

In his first season at Ohio State, Johnson for the most part exceeded expectations. He appeared in 17 games after arriving at Ohio State late and only averaged 1.3 points per game, but was similar to Eugene Brown in the energy that he brought and he was not a liability on the court like you would expect a 17-year-old might be.

He made 6-of-12 three-point field goals, but only connected on 1-of-6 free throw attempts. It is a small sample size, but that has to get better. He was thrown into a small fire when C.J. Walker and Jimmy Sotos got hurt, but Johnson handled he surprise playing time well and seemed up for any challenge thrown at him by the coaching staff.

WHAT’S NEXT: For Johnson, it is just all about growth. He was only 17 last season playing in one of the best and deepest conferences in college basketball. The expectations were pretty low because of Johnson’s age and the fact that he was coming back from an injury, that will change this year.

As I mentioned above, Johnson was oddly just 1-for-6 from the free throw line this past season, but you have to assume that that number will shoot up in 2021-22. Johnson did not have much of an offensive role this season and even though the Buckeyes still have a bunch of weapons, I would look for him to be much more aggressive during next season than he was in his first year as a Buckeye.

PROJECTED ROLE: Johnson was utilized right away when he got to Columbus in January and made an impact handling the ball. It seemed like fate of sorts, because after he got to Ohio State, guards Walker and Jimmy Sotos both got hurt and Johnson was able to come in and be another ball-handler with Duane Washington Jr. and Justice Sueing.

Making the jump to college is never easy but doing It early is a special type of challenge. Johnson not only embraced the challenge, but he also seemed to like it and never lacked confidence when he was on the court, no matter how he was playing. This alone has earned him the right to stay on the court. I don’t expect Johnson to start, but I do expect him to be the backup point guard over Sotos, and play roughly 15-20 minutes a game.

As it does with every guard on OSU’s roster, Johnson’s role and playing time will largely depend on whether Washington decides to return to Columbus, or pursue a professional career, but we will assume for these purposes that he comes back, since it seems like that is most likely.

The bright spot for Meechie Johnson is that he is still classified as a freshman and will bring a half-season of experience into this season. He still does needs to get better on defense, but he will. He was 17 years old last season after all.

Next up: Indiana transfer Joey Brunk