basketball

Freshman Kobe Julien dunks the ball as the Ragin’ Cajuns take on the McNeese Cowboys on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.

The Ragin’ Cajuns basketball squad, led by Jalen Johnson and Mylik Wilson, is ready to silence doubters after a mediocre 2019-20 season.

Star forward Jalen Johnson averaged 15.5 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds while true-freshman Mylik Wilson averaged an efficient 11.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game for the Cajuns this season.

Wilson, the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, saw crucial minutes down the stretch of the season as the Ragin’ Cajuns suffered from an injury-riddled roster.

A consensus three-star prospect on most major recruiting sites, Wilson lived up to the hype and then some in his freshman campaign, as he led the Cajuns in minutes played this year at an impressive 34 minutes per game.

Back in early January, Wilson had an 18-point, 13-rebound explosion in a win against Troy, putting his name on the map. He followed his stellar night with a career-high 30 points in a victory at Appalachian State.

“Mylik Wilson does a lot of things that go unnoticed, that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Louisiana basketball operations director Mike Murphy said in an interview with Daily Advertiser.

“It has to do with deflections defensively. Getting guys to catch the ball on the perimeter three or four feet off their mark. Going to the basket, being able to score, in transition, with a non-typical type of move. He can get himself contorted and still finish at the goal,” Murphy said.

A portion of Wilson’s success can be due to the off-court mentorship by guard Cedric Russell.

“I try to keep him as close to me as possible,” Russell added, “and really build that chemistry off the court, so on the court it’s like night and day.”

Russell, a junior now for the Cajuns, has really encompassed the role as one of the leaders on this squad.

“I’m really embracing the role,” Russell said on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ recent basketball Media Day.

“I was just telling one of my past teammates, ‘Time flies, man.’ I remember my first day I was here. And now I’m one of the Bryce Washington’s or Johnathan Stoves.”

Russell is known for leading by example, as he is not the most vocal guy in the locker room.

After averaging 14 points per game in 32 starts for the Cajuns this season, it is safe to say we will see an extraordinary senior campaign from Russell in 2020-21.

Learning from your predecessors is one of the greatest ways to master your craft and all the young men on the floor know they can look to Cedric — along with Saint Louis transfer Jalen Johnson — for that guidance.

Johnson, in his first year of eligibility for the Cajuns after fulfilling his one-year transfer restriction, has also accepted the leadership role given to him and Russell.

Jalen played his first two seasons of Division I hoops at Saint Louis University in which he appeared in all 33 games (18 starts) his freshman year — averaging 7.5 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds per game — third best for the Billikens.

“My leadership is what I pride myself on most when it comes down to it,” Johnson stated in a recent interview. “Being able to mentor our young guys and take control of the situation is what I have been working on outside of weights and basketball work.”

Johnson led the Cajuns in scoring this season while being the focal point of the defense night in and night out.

In his final year of eligibility next season, Johnson has his eyes set on the NCAA tournament next March.

“I want to go dancing … plain and simple,” Johnson said. “We have the tools needed to win conference next year, so why not us?”

After a disappointing 2019-20 season going 14-19 (8-12 in conference play), the Ragin’ Cajuns look to have their eyes set on huge goals for the 2020-21 season.

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