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UCF Freshman Guard Darius Johnson Ready for a Leadership Role?

The steady hand of UCF Men’s Basketball guard Darius Johnson has crossed over into his decision making as well.

ORLANDO, Fla. - Fans of the University of Central Florida’s basketball program knew they got a stud when Darius Johnson committed to play under head coach Johnny Dawkins in October of 2020. However, not even the biggest of UCF basketball fanatics expected him to have as big of an impact as he has so far into his short career.

Averaging over four points and around two assists in a reserve role, but he has scored 12 points per game in the last three games while averaging 25 minutes. Over that stretch UCF has won two and lost once, with the win over East Carolina being a microcosm of his leadership.

UCF fell down huge early in the game, and coming off a blowout 75-51 point loss against rivals South Florida, the game looked over. However, Johnson never let the team’s performance get him down with 16 points in the game, as well as playing stout defense. He also had moments of clear leadership with the freshman continuously pushing his teammates to be better and hyping them up when they’re succeeding.

Johnson had to show his leadership in a big way while down big, the East Carolina student section allegedly said disgusting and vile remarks to UCF forward C.J. Walker which led to an argument on the bench between Walker and a member of the coaching staff, but Johnson quickly got Walker and calmed him down.

Whatever he said to Walker worked with the forward pairing with center Cheikh Mbacke Diong to create a brick wall around the rim late in the second half in overtime. During the final 15 minutes of the game, the pair only allowed ten points in the paint. Just to show how impressive that is, the average Division One basketball team scores roughly 0.9 points per minute in the paint, while UCF allowed just 0.6 points in the paint over that stretch. Johnson also started taking the primary ball handling role, which led to him finding senior guards Darius Perry and Brandon Mahan wide open late in the game. Johnson’s shooting ability was also on full display with the freshman making five of his nine shots, including four of six from three point range.

With calls for Johnson to be inserted into the starting lineup it will be interesting to see how Dawkins manages him. As of right now if Dawkins were to use Johnson in the starting lineup, it would be alongside Mahan and Perry with Walker and Diong which has been used a lot recently as the close out lineup for UCF, to finish games when they lead late.

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