Men's Basketball: Replacing Ricardo

Ricardo Johnson takes the bench during the Ohio Bobcats’ game against the Bowling Green Falcons after a season-ending injury. (Sarah Kramer | Picture Editor)

Replacing the 24 minutes per game senior Ricardo Johnson provided has been a trying task for Ohio coach Jim Christian.

Since Johnson, a guard, fractured his leg during Ohio’s final non-conference game on Jan. 4, Christian said his regular rotation has had to shoulder a larger burden to make up for Johnson’s absence.

Perhaps the player tasked most with replacing Johnson’s production is senior wing T.J. Hall, a player similar to Johnson in terms of his slashing and defensive abilities, who Christian would like to see more out of as the season continues.

Hall struggled mightily with his shot in a two-point victory against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, missing all 12 of his attempts from the field.

Christian isn’t concerned about his shot but rather his ability to affect the game in other ways.

“You’re not going to be able to make every shot you want to make,” Christian said. “Can you impact the game in other ways? I think that’s one thing we need from T.J. He does, but I think he can impact the game more. He can be a more effective guy when his shot doesn’t fall.”

At the outset of the season, the second-year coach called the team’s depth perhaps its greatest strength. But with Johnson, a Covington, Ky., native, gone for the remainder of the season, that same depth has been called into question, and the Bobcats will need Hall — who’s averaging 13 more minutes since the injury — to step up his game.

“(Hall is) going to have to play,” Christian said. “We don’t have options. We don’t have that kind of depth anymore. And that’s where the loss of Ric really hurts is when a guy isn’t having his night, we don’t have enough guys who can go in and fill that void.”

Ohio senior guard Travis Wilkins has also seen a nine-minute uptick in playing time since the start of Mid-American Conference play and was singled out by Christian as the player who earned Ohio its win against Eastern Michigan.

The play he referred to was when Wilkins hit the floor for a defensive rebound with 2:02 remaining in the game and Ohio trailing 55-53. As soon as Wilkins gained possession of the ball, he called a timeout to avoid a traveling call or a tie up.

“Travis won the game for us,” Christian said. “I don’t care if he’s 1 for 50 (shooting). He made the plays to win the game and that’s what you have to do.”
Wilkins, who plays the role as a spot-up shooter, said he doesn’t feel pressure to change his game to better fit what Ohio lost in Johnson.

“I’m never going to be Ricardo Johnson,” Wilkins said. “I don’t have the mindset that, ‘Oh, Ric’s out. Now I have to do what he did.’ I’m just going to play like I play, knowing that I have to step my game up a little bit.”

But even with other players attempting to step up their performance, Johnson’s teammates have acknowledged that it will be hard to replace him as a producer and floor general.

“Every game is for Ric now that he’s hurt,” Hall said. “We wish he was here with us. He put three hard years in and to see him go down like that, it’s just, you have no choice but to get a little fired up when you see him on the sideline.”


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