Throughout this past season, many throughout the Big Blue Nation probably asked the same question in a plethora of different ways.
“Where is Keldon Johnson?”
Regardless of how you asked that question last season, it was a fair question to ask regardless most of the time. Like many prospects that enter the fray in Lexington, the expectations are sky high and for Johnson, nobody’s expectations were higher coming into this last year.
Before the preseason hype truly kicked in for Kentucky, Johnson was rated by many as the Kentucky player with the highest ceiling in terms of draft stock, which only lasted a short while into the season when PJ Washington decided to become one of the nation’s most dominant forces.
Despite not fully reaching his early potential in Lexington, Johnson’s intensity and charm off the floor made him a beloved figure among the guys in the program and remember, he doesn’t turn 20 years old until this coming October.
Although this season ended one game short of another Final Four under John Calipari, Johnson gave the BBN some fun moments. Let’s take a look at his best five.
Honorable Mention: Half-court prayer vs. Seton Hall:
Y'ALL THOUGHT IT WAS OVER?@KentuckyMBB's KELDON JOHNSON SENDS US TO OT! pic.twitter.com/34875UTeIs— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) December 8, 2018
5. Key (forgotten) moments
In two of Kentucky’s biggest wins of the season, one against Kansas in the Big XII-SEC Challenge and the turning point victory over North Carolina in Chicago, Keldon Johnson was pretty important in both victories.
He gets lost in the sauce because of PJ Washington and Reid Travis’ dominance in both contests for the Cats, but upon further review, you’d be surprised as to how important Johnson’s shot-making and hustle was in the wins.
Another angle of the Johnson OREBs. Great effort from him and the 'Cats on the glass. pic.twitter.com/7R8XnFcr1K— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) January 29, 2019
Don’t forget, Kentucky trailed Kansas by 10 early on in that win and it was effort plays like this from Johnson that got them back into it. The Cats got ZERO points from the four bench guys in the rotation, so Johnson’s 15 against KU were massive.
Of course, he had a knack for hitting big shots and in those two wins, that’s exactly what he did.
First, against the Tar Heels in a crucial time of the ballgame with UNC still lurking in a wonderful 21-point performance:
UNC never really got close to the Cats in this game and that’s because they did a fantastic job of holding the lead at a comfortable distance for much of the evening; something that was a struggle all year for this bunch.
Then, against Kansas, with three-plus minutes to play and Kentucky clinging to a five-point lead, who else would hit the big shot?
"If that didn't go in, that probably would've been a Reid Travis offensive rebound." -Bilas— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) January 29, 2019
'Cats go to the late-shot clock ball screen w/Travis again & what a find from Hagans.
Keldon Johnson always wants the big shots. Keldon Johnson can hit the big shots. (Early) onions. pic.twitter.com/LrKOV61wgQ
4. Dunking on your little brother is always fun
Kentucky has won 10 of their last 12 meetings against that team in red on the west side of the state and another 15-point performance from Keldon Johnson was vital in the Cats beating up on little brother once again this past season.
It makes the win more fun when you’re catching lobs and pulling away from them in the second half on their home floor, too.
3. Hammer it home, Keldon
In the midst of arguably Kentucky’s most competitive game of the season against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals (yeah, that game), it appeared that Kentucky was going to pull away from the Vols down the stretch and until the ... questionable whistleblowing on Reid Travis began to happen, it looked like the Cats were going for another tourney title.
One of the highlight reel plays from the final 10 minutes of that game was Kentucky at their best: turning defense into offense and Keldon Johnson was the beneficiary of just that.
This slam sent the BBN in attendance into a frenzy and felt like the point you could come back to as to where Kentucky won this game, but ... yeah. Still, not many, if any, threw down dunks with as much intensity as Johnson did this past season.
2. “Wake the f*** up!”
Early on in Kentucky’s stressful 82-80 win over Auburn on Jan. 19, Ashton Hagans told Keldon Johnson to wake up and get his head in the game.
Actually, he used more colorful language (that you can see below), but the best part for the Cats? Johnson got the message in a 20-point performance.
Ashton Hagans would like Keldon Johnson to wake up pic.twitter.com/3VT7IIuXYv— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 19, 2019
Johnson was excellent after appearing that he didn’t get off the team bus mentally early on and helped carry the Cats to a huge road win against the eventual SEC Tournament champion and a Final Four participant.
1 (or tied for first with No. 2). GET UP, KELDON
You know what? Let’s combine No. 1 and No. 2 on this list since they came against the same team and one came in the Big Dance, too.
I’m a sucked for a good baseline out of bounds play and sometimes, Calipari pulls out a gem underneath the basket.
It was fun, Keldon. Good luck in the future with the Spurs.