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Friday, January 13, 2012
Player Perspective: Darius Johnson-Odom

By Jason King

West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope have become double-double machines, and at Syracuse, players such as Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters have become the face of college basketball’s best team.

Through it all Darius Johnson-Odom keeps making baskets.

Johnson-Odom -- Marquette’s senior guard -- hasn’t received the national hype and hoopla of some of his conference counterparts. But Big East coaches will tell you the 6-foot-2 Johnson-Odom is as dangerous as any player in the league -- mainly because of his ability to hit big shots in crunch time.

I caught up with Johnson-Odom following his 20-point, six-assist performance in Marquette’s 83-64 victory over St. John’s on Wednesday. He’s averaging 18.1 points on the season. Marquette hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Johnson-Odom
Darius Johnson-Odom has become one of the most respected players in the Big East.
King: For whatever reason, you don’t receive nearly as much praise for your accomplishments as some of your competitors. Does that bother you, and do you feel like you can hold your own against any guard in the country?

Johnson-Odom: There’s no question in my mind I can. But I don’t mind the lack of attention or not being looked at as the highest guy. All I want to do is get my team wins and that’s what I try to do.

King: You and Jimmy Butler formed such a good tandem last season. What’s life been like without him? What do you miss the most?

Johnson-Odom: Jimmy has been missed. He was a great defender. He did all the little things that helped us win games. That’s what we all miss about Jimmy. He was a great leader. He led in many ways.

King: Marquette started off 10-0 this season before losing four times in six games. What was the reason for the lull?

Johnson-Odom: Every team hits a few bumps in the road. Our main focus right now is just playing two halves as hard as possible. Once we get that down, it’s going to be hard for teams to beat us.

King: In the long run, how much better will you be because of the losses?

Johnson-Odom: I think you can take a lot of positives from it. When we watch film, a lot of guys can see themselves not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. By the time we get out to practice, we know what we have to correct.

We’ve been doing extra shooting and individual workouts. We do a lot of stuff that pertains not just to the other teams, but to us, as well. We have to be good at what we do and not just worry about the opponent. It’s really helped us improve our focus.

King: You’re in your third season as a Big East starter. Who are the three best players you’ve faced in your career?

Johnson-Odom: One guy I’ve always respected is Preston Knowles of Louisville. He’s a good player. He’s very hard to guard off screens. He plays hard every possession. (Former Villanova guard) Corey Fisher is another guy I loved playing against. Me and Corey are good friends off the court. But we brought the best out of each other on the court. The other guy I like playing against is Ashton Gibbs at Pittsburgh. He’s improved so much since his sophomore year.

King: How good is it or the Big East that teams such as Rutgers and Seton Hall are playing well after struggling so much in recent years?

Johnson-Odom: It’s great for the league. Those schools aren’t backing down from anyone. They’re playing hard against all the top teams. Rutgers is playing well at home, on the road, everywhere. They’re doing really, really well.

King: Buzz Williams seems like he’s be a lot of fun to play for. Any funny stories about him?

Johnson-Odom: Buzz has a lot of energy and charisma. He shows it in his coaching and the way he tries to explain things to you. Most of us try not to laugh at the time, but it ends up coming out anyway. He’s a good coach, a good person, a great guy to be around. He always has a  great pulse on his guys. That’s why people love playing for him.

King: If you had a day off and could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

Johnson-Odom: I’d probably go get some shots up in a nice place, probably somewhere like L.A., where I could go walk the beach or something.

King: You’d still go to the gym and shoot on your vacation?

Johnson-Odom: There are no days off. I don’t believe in that.