Meechie Johnson returns to Ohio State after two years at South Carolina

On3 imageby:Andy Backstrom04/02/24

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COLUMBUS — Meechie Johnson is returning home. Following two years at South Carolina, the one-time Buckeyes guard and Cleveland native is transferring back to Ohio State for his final year of eligibility.

“I am a lifelong Buckeye,” Johnson wrote in a statement he posted Tuesday to social media. “It was my dream to be a Buckeye since I was a little kid. My story didn’t go exactly as planned, but that’s life. I’m blessed to be able to have this opportunity to get back to where I belong and still have at least the ending I’ve always dreamed about, and I wouldn’t pass that up for anything.”

Johnson continued: “I’m coming back to The Ohio State University, not just to come home but to be a leader, both on the court and in the community; in my hometown and state. Sure, I can be a leader and role model in communities elsewhere, but it doesn’t have the same impact as it does to be a role model in your hometown, where I can tell kids when I meet and spend time with them that I’m from the same place as you.”

After reclassifying and graduating early from Garfield Heights High School, Johnson joined Ohio State midseason in 2020-21 but then started just five games in two seasons with the Buckeyes. Johnson went on to emerge as an everyday starter for the Gamecocks. He ranked second on the team in scoring last season and atop the South Carolina leaderboard this time around.

Johnson averaged 14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this year, leading South Carolina back to the NCAA Tournament.

He scored 20 or more points 10 times this season, netting a season-high 29 points in a win over Notre Dame on Nov. 28. The 6-foot-2, 184-pound guard shot 39.9% from the field, including 32.1% from beyond the arc. He’s a capable 3-point shooter, having made 60 on the season and at least three triples on nine separate occasions during the 2023-24 campaign. The year before that, he drilled 70 long-range shots on a similar 32.7% clip, including six against both Western Kentucky and Kentucky.

He’s yet to shoot north of 40% from the field in his four-year career, though. As much as Johnson has proved he can take over games, efficiency hasn’t always been his strong suit, like in 2022-23 when he averaged 12.7 points and 3.6 assists but also 2.4 turnovers while posting just a 36.1% field goal percentage.

Still, he got the opportunity to grow into a volume scoring point guard at South Carolina, where he played under Findlay, Ohio, native Lamont Paris. Together, they helped turn the Gamecocks around, following up an 11-win season in 2022-23 with a 26-win season in 2023-24, complete with a 6-seed bid to March Madness this year.

He’ll now try to help new Ohio State head coach Jake Diebler get back to The Dance, too.

Johnson appeared in 17 games his first season with the Buckeyes, averaging 5.8 minutes and 1.2 points per contest along the way. His arrival proved critical given that, later that season, starting point guard CJ Walker suffered a hand injury and, after that, backup point guard Jimmy Sotos went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

The following season, Johnson averaged an increased 17.7 minutes and 4.4 points per game yet shot only 30.8% from the field. He scored in double figures against Bowling Green (13 points) and Xavier (14 points), but his game-winning 3-pointer against Seton Hall in the Fort Myers Tip-Off comes to mind first.

Except, Johnson wants to be remembered for so much more as a Buckeyes player. He’ll join a backcourt that will include star point guard and two-time Ohio State captain Bruce Thornton. It could also feature Roddy Gayle Jr., who has yet to indicate his plans for the 2024-25 season but averaged 13.5 points per game in a breakout Year 2 with the program.

“I’m coming home to win, as a team, whatever it takes!” Johnson wrote in his statement. “I’m excited to play for Jake Diebler. You can tell there’s a lot of momentum behind the program with Coach Diebler at the helm, and I can’t wait to be a part of this resurgence!”

Johnson added: “I know what this team can be, and is going to be, and I want to be part of that.”

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