D.J. Johnson has a statistical goal in mind for the upcoming basketball season.
The Kansas State senior forward wants to lead the Wildcats in playing time. Not points, not rebounds, not assists and not blocks. As good as it is to pile up numbers in those categories, his primary focus lies elsewhere. He wants to log as many minutes as possible.
That’s the way you think after a broken foot forces you off the court for an entire year and cripples your stamina for even longer.
“There have been times the past few years where a game when it was hard for me to stay out there,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t have the energy for it. Now, if a game goes into overtime or double overtime I feel like I’m ready for it. Bring it on.”
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Johnson appears to be in the best shape of his K-State career, and he intends to show off his improved energy level starting at 7 p.m. Friday when K-State plays its first preseason game against Pittsburg State at Bramlage Coliseum.
If he had his way, he would play all 40 minutes.
“I haven’t been subbing out in practice at all,” Johnson said. “I want to be conditioned to play a lot of minutes. Being healthy is part of that, so is cardio and eating right. I want to be running up and down the court this season, just being helpful from start to finish.”
K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber is crossing his fingers Johnson can play close to 30 minutes a game.
It won’t be easy. Johnson averaged 9.2 minutes as a freshman, 13.9 minutes as a sophomore and 20.3 minutes as a junior coming back from his broken foot. So the climb to 30 minutes will be an adjustment. But it’s one Weber thinks Johnson is ready for.
“From this summer on, he's actually practiced,” Weber said. “First time in two years where he goes the whole practice. He's in the gym shooting extra time instead of being in the training room and getting therapy just so he can be in the game. I think there's no doubt he's made that nice step.”
The Wildcats want Johnson on the court. He came into his own late last season, averaging 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds during conference games. When he was at his best, he was scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Texas Tech or hitting Iowa State with 22 points and nine rebounds.
At times, he looked like one of the Big 12’s better inside players. Problem is, he didn’t play more than 32 minutes in a single game. He occasionally struggled to log 10 minutes.
He has bigger expectations for this season.
“I don't know if he'll share minutes, but I'm hoping for a good 28, 30 minutes from him every game,” Weber said. “I’m hoping he can be very productive.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Pittsburg State at K-State basketball
- What: Exhibition game
- When: 7 p.m. Friday
- Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
- Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM, 102.5-FM; KWLS, 107.9-FM
- TV: FSKC