Was Kahlil Whitney Holding Back Johnny Juzang?
Johnny Juzang had an extremely rough start to this basketball year.
As Kentucky’s season has continued, different players have had certain moments that have shown their usefulness to the team. Keion Brooks has emerged as a good rebounder and midrange scorer. EJ Montgomery has had a few solid performances. Nate Sestina has shown the ability to be a great pick-and-pop guy.
Outside of “The Big Four” (Hagans, Maxey, Quickley, and Richards), there wasn’t too much production from the rest of the team. A lot of the season has been spent trying to find that fifth contributor. Out of all the players on the team, there were two who hadn’t made much of an impact. Kahlil Whitney and Johnny Juzang. Everyone knows about Whitney’s struggles. He seemed lost and wasn’t able to impact the game positively in any area. Juzang, on the other hand, knew his role. He knew that he was going to be used mainly as a spot-up shooter and perimeter defender. The only issue was that Juzang’s shots were not falling. Going into conference play, Johnny Juzang was shooting in the 20% range from the field. He was getting his shots up, they just weren’t going down.
How Did Kahlil Whitney’s Transfer affect Juzang?
As we all know, freshman Kahlil Whitney announced his decision to leave the program a few weeks ago. He was seemingly disgruntled with his playing time and felt that it would be better to go elsewhere. Whitney was getting a bit more playing time than Johnny Juzang, so when Whitney left, it opened up a few more minutes for Juzang to show what he had.
Once Whitney left the team, many believed it was Juzang’s chance to shine. Unfortunately, his struggles continued. He started showing a decent ability to rebound and defend, but his shots still weren’t falling. In a home game against Georgia in late January, Johnny set his season high in points with 6. He also logged three rebounds and an assist in that game. It wasn’t much, but it was a step in the right direction.
In Kentucky’s last game against Tennessee, Johnny Juzang may have had his breakout game. He scored 13 points, setting a new season high. He was 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from three point range. This is a great sign, because Juzang has struggled with his shot all season. This should really help with his confidence. He also recorded a rebound, an assist, and a steal against Tennessee. That is exactly what this team needs from him.
I personally believe that Kahlil Whitney taking up some of those minutes was affecting Johnny Juzang’s play. Now that Whitney is gone, I think we may see Johnny emerge as a premier scorer off the bench for us.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
After a great performance against Tennessee, I think that Johnny Juzang will continue to blossom as a reliable scorer on this team. If he can give us 6-8 points per night, defend, and rebound, I think that he will have found his stride on this basketball team. Juzang is a top notch shooter with a beautiful stroke. All it will take is some confidence, which he appeared to have against Tennessee. As a 6’7 guard/wing hybrid, he could prove very valuable in the tail end of this season.
Johnny has improved his shooting percentage to 36%, which is leagues better than the mid 20% mark that he held a few games ago. He still has a long ways to go, but now that Kahlil Whitney is no longer eating up his minutes, Johnny Juzang will be providing extremely important bench production the rest of the year.
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