Listed at 5-foot-9, The Citadel's Frankie Johnson Jr. will admit to being just 5-6. Either way is fine for Bulldogs' coach Duggar Baucom.
“If he was six feet, he'd be playing in the ACC,” Baucom says of his freshman point guard and likely team leader for the next four seasons. “I'm just glad he's mine.”
The Division I basketball education of Johnson, who played quarterback and point guard at Darlington High School, continued Tuesday night in the Bulldogs' 119-90 win over Truett-McConnell at McAlister Field House.
Johnson filled up his stat line with 17 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals as The Citadel (2-1), playing for the third time in five days, pulled away from a lower-division foe in the final 10 minutes.
It was a definite step forward for Johnson, who in his college debut against College of Charleton on Friday went just 1 of 8 from the field with no assists. On Tuesday, he hit 7 of 9 shots, including 1 of 3 from 3-point range.
“The pace is the big difference,” said Johnson, who a four-year starter at Darlington and three-time all-state pick. “We play really fast and press the whole game, so you have to get used to playing fast. But that's why I chose to come here, because of this system.”
Baucom figured Johnson would recover quickly from his struggles against the Cougars.
“I never had a doubt,” said Baucom, who won his 200th career game. “Friday night against Charleston, that was a fluke thing. He got his first-game nerves out of there and was excellent tonight.”
Baucom's system depends on effective 3-point shooting, and the Bulldogs can't seem to get more than one or two guys going at a time. Matt Frierson made seven treys in a 146-84 win over Johnson University on Sunday, and Quayson Williams hit 7 of 14 for a team-best 26 points against Truett-McConnell (3-3).
But the rest of the squad was just 8 of 34 (23.5 percent), with Warren Sledge hitting 3 of 7 for 15 points.
“We hit some early, and I thought tonight would be the night they started falling,” Baucom said. “But we'll just keep shooting and try not to talk about it too much. Rhythm and range and shoot it is what we say, as long as its in rhythm and range.”
With NAIA-member Truett-McConnell hanging around late in the game, senior forward Brian White gave the Bulldogs a spark with 13 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Zane Najdawi – the SoCon player of the week after averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds in the first two games – missed out on a third straight double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Leando Allende hit 7 of 8 free throws for 12 points.
The Bulldogs won't return to McAlister Field House until Nov. 28 against Presbyterian, playing the next three games on the road at Stetson, Iowa State and Arizona State.