basketball Edit

Rutgers C Myles Johnson at the top of the Big Ten in steals

It’s not often you see a center near the top of the leaderboard in steals, but take a look at the Big Ten stats and you’ll see Rutgers big man Myles Johnson.

Johnson is tied with two others for third in the conference with 24 steals and he’s also fourth with 1.4 steals per game. Teammate Jacob Young leads in the league with 30 steals and 1.8 per game.

Taking an even deeper dive, Johnson is the first player listed as a center with the most steals in the nation and by average. Everyone ahead of him is either a guard or a forward.

In Big Ten play alone, Johnson has 21 steals, more than anybody on the Scarlet Knights and in the entire conference as a whole.


Michigan State's A.J. Hoggard, left, is pressured by Rutgers' Myles Johnson, center, and Geo Baker during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing
Michigan State's A.J. Hoggard, left, is pressured by Rutgers' Myles Johnson, center, and Geo Baker during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing (© Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

The 6-foot-11, 255-pounder has at least one steal in 14 of Rutgers’ 17 games. As a freshman, Johnson had 23 steals in 31 games and he had just 16 a year ago in 31 games and 25 starts.

“Some of those are scouting report steals. He understands plays and watches enough film of the opponents, and he has great hands. He came here with those. He can catch a lot of things. He's got long arms. He just uses his body,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell told TKR on Tuesday. “He watches film and he's more athletic now if you saw film of his freshman year. It's really a big difference in the work that he's done to become a little quicker with the feet and his hands.

“But he definitely is one of the best defenders in the country. He plays against a lot of post players (and teams) that throw the ball into the post a lot too. I watch some games and they never throw the ball into the post guys. This is a league that throws the ball in with quality big guys. He has more opportunities and it helps a great deal.”

Since having just two points in the loss against Michigan State in early January, Johnson has tallied at least seven points in every game with two 14-point performances and one 13-point game. During the stretch, he’s also recorded two double-doubles and another game with 12 rebounds.

Johnson is second in the conference with 30 blocks and 2.3 per game as well.

“I really don't know if you could appreciate the development of Myles unless you put on the tape from his freshman year and watch a practice. He's able to guard everybody now. He can guard every position. And so when we switch off at the end of games, he shuts down guards, everybody. He couldn't do that earlier on. He's done a really good job of staying out of foul trouble too. He's really learned. He watched film. He's playing at a high level. I mean he's one of the leading shot blockers in the country. I think he, and Jacob Young are two of the better defenders in the entire league, which makes them two of the better defensive guys in the country.

“Every night (Kofi) Cockburn, it's (Luka) Garza, (Liam) Robbins, it's Trevion Williams this. I don't think anyone realizes the depth in front courts in this league. Myles is challenged every day.”

When freshman center Cliff Omoruyi returned from his injury, Johnson appeared to have more bounce and has played well since then as he hasn’t had to hold down the fort for basically all 40 minutes.

On the season, Johnson is also fifth in the league in rebounding with 152 total and fourth with an average of 8.9 boards per game.

“Really pleased with Myles' development but it's on him. He's done a really good job. He's got a good experience and he's sharing that with Cliff too, so I think that's a really good thing, his mentorship.”

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.


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