The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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32 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2019-20 country, or the best point guard." Being a top point guard involves being a leader on a winning team. "He is a talent," Keatts noted. "He could be in the NBA or playing some type of pro- fessional basketball somewhere. I like the fact that I have an older senior point guard that can certainly bring the younger guys along. I need him to accept that role." Johnson understands that. It was some- thing he was tasked with before, but he ad- mits he did not accomplish that to the level needed. "Coach Keatts actually wanted me to be more vocal last year, and I kind of failed him at that," Johnson said. "This year I'm going to try to be more vocal." Early indications are that the point guard is emerging as a leader. "Markell has definitely made a huge jump as far as on the court and off the court as a person," fifth-year senior wing C.J. Bryce said. "His leadership role has changed a lot, as far as him having the year he had last year, and guys look up to him on this team. "It's something I'm looking forward to him taking full advantage of this year." Besides having the chance to prove his value to potential NBA scouts this year, there is a byproduct of Johnson's decision to return to NC State. "I'm glad I get a chance to graduate," he noted. "That's one of the big things my mom wanted me to do, to graduate. So I'm glad I got a chance." While Johnson said that his mother did not push for a decision one way or another while he was thinking about turning professional, he may have offered a hint of what probably made his mother happy. "I just felt like I owed this to her," he said. Johnson sat at his media day chair dis- cussing this and many other topics while wearing a necklace with a pendant that is a picture of him in his youth with his father. Johnson's dad passed away before he came to NC State, and he said that he always wears the necklace. When asked about his father, Johnson took a moment to gather his thoughts and perhaps even hold his emotions together. "I don't even know how to put it in words," he said. "He and my mom were married 23, 24 years. It was hard. It was definitely hard." Johnson's father may not get to see his son mature into the senior leader he is poised to become, but he knows his growth would make his dad proud. "It means a lot, but it would mean a lot more if he was here," Johnson said. "But I know he's watching me." As are a lot of NC State fans who, like every other fan base in college basketball, are becoming less accustomed to watching a youthful-looking freshman grow into a young man (and a senior) right before their eyes. Johnson admits that "it's crazy" to think this is his fourth and final season in a Wolf- pack uniform. "I never imagined that, but I'm glad I'm still here," Johnson stated. ■ Johnson has started 54 of the 59 games he has played in over the last two years. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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