Aislinn Konig and Markell Johnson are on-court generals, leading their respective teams to good starts. The importance of each to NC State basketball cannot be overstated. Despite the good start of the teams, Konig and Johnson haven’t been their normal scoring selves. Scoring is another layer that will come around and boost their programs to the next level.
On a women’s team that looks to be one of the best in the nation, senior guard Aislinn Konig hasn’t needed her 3-point shooting to win games, going 5-for-25 and ranking seventh on the team in points per game. It’s been a similar story for senior guard Markell Johnson, going 4-for-25 from deep while sitting sixth on the team in scoring per game. When they start getting shots to fall, and they will, these teams are going to be scary good.
After missing the ACC opener, Johnson has averaged 9.5 points per game despite leading the team in minutes during that stretch. Coming into the season, Johnson was expected to be a significant scorer, and while it hasn’t come yet, the fact that he is able to be productive without scoring is necessary for the team.
Johnson is averaging 7.8 assists per game, good for sixth in the entire country. While he’s still warming up to the season, Johnson is getting his teammates involved, and when the shots start falling, he will show why he’s an All-ACC caliber player.
“It was good to see Markell Johnson score 16 points,” said men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts after the win against Alcorn State. “I thought he felt a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable shooting the basketball.”
The team certainly realized that while playing against Georgia Tech in its season-opening ACC loss, as the Pack couldn’t get into much offensive flow, falling 82-81 in overtime. Other than that game, NC State wouldn’t necessarily need Johnson to win, but come ACC play, he will show up and take the team to another level.
Don’t be discouraged by his lack of scoring. There is a lot riding on this season, both for NC State and Johnson personally, because he will be heading to the NBA draft after the season. After testing the waters last year, he needs this season to be dominating, and there is no doubt in my mind about his ability to make it there.
On the other side, Pack women’s basketball is already highly ranked, and the chemistry is noticeable watching them play. While being third on the team in minutes, Konig has guards to fill the production gap while she is figuring things out.
Against Maine on Education Day, she was able to get a couple to fall, shooting 3-for-5 from deep and 3-for-6 in total.
“I think it was good for Ace to see a couple of shots go down,” said women’s basketball head coach Wes Moore after the game against Maine. “Probably good for her and good for me for her to hit some 3s, especially as we get ready to go on the road.”
Fans know what Konig is capable of, as she averaged 10.7 points per game last year and hit 93 3-pointers, breaking the single-season program record at a 40.1% clip. The potential is there, and there is no reason she will slow down this year. Once the women’s team gets her at full confidence, it can contend with the best teams in women’s college basketball.
Although the two NC State basketball teams are at different spots in their growth, both will benefit when their senior guards start gaining confidence. That next level will make both teams significant contenders in the best conference in college basketball.