Every coach’s dream is to have a team full of committed players who go above and beyond the call of duty. For VCU, junior Melvin Johnson has put himself in position to become a lethal scorer due to his hard work and dedication put forth this offseason.
It’s a testament to Johnson’s determination to improve his overall game for the betterment of the team. Johnson’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as his teammates and head coach Shaka Smart are impressed by his attitude throughout the offseason and weeks prior to the official tip off of the 2014-15 basketball campaign.
Senior forward Treveon Graham said he appreciated the direction Johnson took this offseason to enhance his abilities on the floor.
“He is always in the gym, so when you see someone in the gym, you want to do what they are doing,” Graham said.
This year, Johnson is the lone junior on the team which means he will likely succeed Graham, Weber and Guest as the leader of the men’s basketball squad once they graduate.
“He wants to get to a point where he has a leadership role and produce on the court,” Guest said.
Guest proclaimed Johnson a gym rat and his statistics over his first two seasons at VCU have proven this sentiment. Last season, Johnson averaged 10.4 points per game, shooting 40.3 percent from the floor and 39.5 percent from the three-point line. Most of his minutes came off the bench as he was in the six man rotation; which led him to receive the A-10 Conference Sixth Man of the Year award.
As a sophomore, Johnson shot 39.5 percent in three-pointers and 40 percent from the field. Johnson’s ppg increased to 10.4. As a freshman, he played in 35 games, averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent field goal percentage and 28 percent behind the arc. As a senior in high school, he led St. Benedict’s Preparatory school in Newark, New Jersey to a 35-3 record and a top-20 ranking by USA Today. During that year, he average 20.8 ppg and knocked down 82-three point field goals. Coming out of St. Benedict Prep, he was a consensus top-100 and four-star guard, ranking as high as 76th-best player in the Class of 2012 by Scout.com. Johnson was also ranked the 14th-best incoming shooting guard in the country in 2012.
Last season, Johnson’s sophomore campaign was cut short due to a knee injury, forcing him to miss the final two games of the season. His presence was missed as the Rams came up short in the A-10 championships and in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“I feel like it was unfinished business,” Johnson said. “ I just wanted to come in and increase everything from every part of my game statistically wise and as a player in general. I definitely could have impacted those last two games.”
Now healthy, Johnson said he and the team are focused on improving their shooting woes from the year prior. Free throws especially plagued the Rams, most evident in the team’s last two games of the 2014-15 season: the A-10 championship and the first round matchup in the NCAA tournament. Smart’s team shot a combined 15-26, only shooting 58 percent from the charity strike. Melvin emphasized this was a problematic occurrence and one that the team has improved on.
“We need to make some free throws,” Johnson said. “Everything that went wrong those last two games last season, we have worked on which is solid defense and free throws.”
Whether he is knocking down a huge corner three, or performing his patented mid-range floater he deems “The Melvin,’’ the Bronx, New York native figures to be one of the driving forces for the team’s success this season and beyond.