Let's all be logical, for just a minute...I know it's tough when emotions are involved, but this needs to be done.
JaJuan Johnson is a damned-good basketball player. In fact, he's feared by many fanbases and players alike, not only in the BT, but throughout the NCAA ranks. We've seen him go toe-to-toe with great big men and come out on top. We've seen him block shot after shot, while infuriating the opposition and changing the course of a game. Hell, even in his most-recent game for our Boilers, he recorded 23 points, 5 reb, 4 blocks and 2 steals...versus the eventual national champion.
The guy's good, no great. And, he's been good for three seasons for our alma mater. That's worth something to me. He deserves a bit of understanding, in my opinion, and more than that, deserves support.
On top of being a good guy on the court, he's been spotless off of it. From my friends on campus, to donors, no one has a bad thing to say about the guy. And, on the few occasions I've actually talked to him myself, he's been great. He's part of the Purdue family...and he's one of the foundation stones of the new era of Purdue basketball, let's not lose focus on that.
On the message boards, on this site, on Twitter and elsewhere, there's been flat-out vitriol directed at 25, the guy my 4 year old son and others call JJJ...and I don't get it. He's one of us, he's a Boilermaker. He's a late-bloomer- he wasn't on any recruiting radar as a Frosh or even Sophomore in high school. He's worked hard, become more skilled and has earned the right to take some time to make sure he's making the right decision.
I'll admit it, the imperfections of his game have infuriated me at times. Don't think I don't see those. I'd love for him to be meaner, more-aggressive, mentally and physically-stronger and more-consistent...but, in my opinion, his best basketball is in front of him. And just like the rest of his game is rounding into shape, he'll get bigger and stronger...and even mentally, he'll become better. Hopefully we'll get to see some of that next season.
When I got out of school back in 1997, I played hardball in my first post-hiring interview. I got the company who hired me to pay me just under $40k...I felt like it was a pretty good deal. And most of you who read this have been or will be in a similar situation. Sure, you might be one of the lucky ones who made $50,000/year right after you got your undergrad degree, but we're all in a similar boat. This is where we really can't relate with JJ.
His decision won't make him or lose him a few thousand dollars in his first year out of school. The stakes are higher. He knows that, his family knows that, and get this, Matty knows that. None of them want him to do something he'll later regret, either way. It is possible to go to early, but this year is muddier as the players and the owners try to figure out whether they're going to settle their labor agreement without a stoppage. No one knows what's on the other side of the next agreement, but many current players, agents and future players are anxious about what's coming. This plays into JJ's difficult decision.
Where does Johnson stand in a talented draft class? The year someone comes out can change their perspective and help them make their decision. And while we as Purdue fans might have become spoiled by JJ and notice the flaws in his game, tons of people in the know are pretty-enamored with his combination of athletic ability, length and ability to shoot it to 20 feet...kind of a deadly combo. His shooting ability creates match-up problems, especially at the 4, where he should probably be playing anyway.
Another HUGE factor is being close to his pal Rob this and last season. He's watched Hummel get hurt not once, but twice and probably because of that, understands how fragile and tenuous someone's physical value as a basketball player can be. Plus, from what I gather, he's pretty good friends with Evan Turner who also had a serious injury this season that probably made Turner wonder if he had made the correct decision in returning this year.
Turns out for Turner, coming back was a very, very wise and lucrative decision. I think Turner wanted to come back and win a BT title- he did that. Sure, they fizzled-badly in the NCAA tourney, but his standing as a player and prospect was only aided in this year's campaign.
But for every Turner, there's a Harangody, or worse Butler-type player...Like I said, this is a tough decision.
So before you badmouth the guy again, ask yourself a question- Does negativity endear us as fans to JJ? It surely doesn't help. Whether or not he reads this site, GBI or others, the word spreads fast, and his friends might. We're still people, so is he...his exploring of this option doesn't make him stupid in any way. If you can't understand the gravity of what he's pondering, your intelligence should be in question.
In my opinion, there's more than one way this can go and still have it end positively for all sides...but there are variables in the equation that NO ONE on this earth can foresee. For selfish reasons, I think it'd be great if he'd return...but we'll all have to wait a month or so to know if we get to enjoy one final season of watching number 25 with Purdue on his chest.
Either way, I'm rooting for his success...and anyone else on the roster who might or might not be going through the same thought process. Not all players do, but the guys on this roster deserve such respect.