It's understandable why Purdue basketball fans would compare Ronnie Johnson and Lewis Jackson. There's the ball handling skills, the ability to penetrate into the heart of a defense, and the skill necessary at finding an open teammate when engulfed by a mass of bodies in the paint. However, eighth-year Boilermaker men's basketball coach said it isn't necessarily fair to compare the two point guards.
“Lewis had more people helping him than Ronnie does,” Painter said. “When you talk about Lewis Jackson being surrounded by Keaton Grant, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, and Rob Hummel, it allowed him to just be a point guard, put pressure on the ball, and get our offense started.”
The Boilermakers (7-8, 1-2 Big Ten) will host Penn State (8-7, 0-3) today at noon (BTN).
Four seasons ago, Jackson was the Purdue freshman point guard and started 30 of 36 games. The Boilermakers finished the season 27-10, which is a far cry from this season's 7-8 mark, in which Johnson is the current freshman point guard running Painter's offense.
“Lewis didn't really have all of the responsibility that Ronnie has,” Painter said. “Ronnie has a lot of responsibility with this team. It's a lot different situation (for Ronnie) because of the guys that we had and the maturity level of those guys (with Jackson).”
Johnson's responsibility through 15 games (and nine starts) is showing in the fact that he plays more minutes than Jackson did as a freshman and he also scores and rebounds more. When you play alongside the aforementioned Boiler greats, any scoring or rebounding that Jackson ever produced was appreciated, but not critical.
“Ronnie is more of a scorer,” Painter said. “He has the ability to score the ball more than Lewis did. “
Johnson is averaging nearly nine points per game in 28 minutes per outing, while Jackson averaged less than six points per game in less than 24 minutes of action.
Johnson can score in transition and penetration, but his 3 of 25 shooting from beyond the arc still shows a desperate need for improvement.
Jackson distributed the ball better (118 assists to 74 turnovers), but not significantly more so than Johnson (50 assists to 36 turnovers), despite having an inordinate more number of weapons.
“Lewis was more of a quintessential point guard,” Painter said. “He was a guy that got other people involved.”
Painter believes that Johnson has the potential to “grow into” a more traditional point guard than he currently is.
“I feel like he can be a 3- to 4- to 1 assist to turnover ratio (type player),” Painter said. “It's going to take a little time.”
Painter is seeking improvement from Johnson defensively, and he is seeing his young guard make strides in that regard.
“Lewis came in from day one being able to pressure the ball full court,” Painter explained. “Ronnie is just now, within the past two or three weeks, but that being said, Ronnie has really had an effect on the game, and an effect on what the other team is running, by his pressure. He's really helped us.”
Jackson was an effective player for four seasons for Painter and he believes that Johnson can take that position and make it even more dangerous over the next few years in West Lafayette.
“I'm excited about Ronnie,” Painter said. “If he'll continue to be a student of the game, and learn the game, and learn that it's different each time that you step on the court with the styles that you are going against, and really buy into that approach. I think that he can become one of the best point guards that have ever played here.”