Meechie Johnson “Always Wanted to Be A Buckeye,” Has Matured As Player and Person Since Previous Stint at Ohio State

By Andy Anders on May 30, 2024 at 8:35 am
Meechie Johnson
Petre Thomas – USA TODAY Sports

Change has permeated the Columbus skyline since Meechie Johnson was last at Ohio State in 2022.

None of his former Buckeye teammates are still on the team, with center Zed Key being the last to leave with his transfer to Dayton this spring. The head coach is different, with Jake Diebler taking over for Chris Holtmann in February after a midseason change.

And as with all else, Johnson himself has changed through his two years at South Carolina.

“When Meechie first came to Ohio State he was very young,” Demetrius Johnson, Meechie’s father, told Eleven Warriors. “So I would say maturity (is the biggest difference now). Court experience, just growing as a person and player.”

Meechie Johnson is returning to Columbus with lofty ambitions for his final season of college basketball. With his maturity and seniority comes an evermore increased desire to win at the highest levels possible.

Demetrius said his son’s goal for his final season of college basketball is to win a Big Ten title and try to go on a national title run.

Being from Ohio fueled Meechie’s decision, in part, to return to the school where he spent his freshman and sophomore years. The Buckeyes were in need of guard help and his proven abilities with the Gamecocks made him a clear choice for Diebler in his first roster-building exercise.

“It was a family decision,” Demetrius said. “When he hit the transfer portal, things just made sense for him to come back home. He always wanted to be a Buckeye, he just decided to finish his career here.”

Meechie had his best season yet as a college basketball player for South Carolina in 2023-24, when he racked up 14.1 points per game and shot 39.9% from the field, both career-highs. He added 2.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest, shooting 32.1% from 3-point range.

Becoming a more well-rounded player has been a Goliathian portion of Meechie’s maturation, the elder Johnson said. He didn’t just have his best season as a scorer last year, he also had career-highs in rebounding and steals (0.9 per game).

“He’s gotten to a point where he knows it’s not just about scoring, it’s about rebounding, assists,” Demetrius said. “If you’re not in the game, it’s about being the best teammate you can be and just trying to put the whole package together.

“Sometimes when kids come out of high school, they struggle with the value thing, it’s score, score, score. ‘If I’m not scoring, I’m not doing this.’ Once you mature, you realize there’s so many different ways to impact a game. It makes you a better player and a better person.”

While Meechie’s most productive season at Ohio State featured just 17.7 minutes and 4.4 points per game before the then-sophomore transferred and became a star with the Gamecocks, he’ll be a featured part of the Buckeyes’ plan of attack in 2024-25.

He and returning star guard Bruce Thornton will start in the backcourt, though Demetrius said it’ll be Diebler’s decision who plays point guard and who plays shooting guard, with both featured at the 1 on their respective teams a season ago. 

“I think when you have Bruce and Meechie there, two guards who can play off the ball, I think it’s going to be exciting to see,” Johnson said. “They’re both mature guards. When you have two guys like that and both of them care about winning, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter who brings the ball up, it doesn’t matter who scores the ball. At the end of the day, you just want to win.”

“It doesn’t matter who brings the ball up, it doesn’t matter who scores the ball. At the end of the day, you just want to win.”– Demetrius Johnson on the pairing of Bruce Thornton and Meechie Johnson

Meechie has also already gotten to work developing some chemistry with his new teammates, even if he’s not on campus yet. Thornton and Meechie went out to eat together a short while back.

Speaking of bonds, Demetrius’ nephew and Meechie’s cousin Marcus Johnson, a five-star point guard in the 2026 class, pledged his services to Ohio State in April. While they won’t have a chance to play together, it’s another exciting development for the Johnsons.

“That was the decision they thought was best for their family,” Demetrius said. “Me and my son, that was best for our family. They ended up both going to Ohio State. So I’m excited to watch my son and I’m excited to watch my nephew in the future.”

Going into his final campaign, Demetrius sees plenty of places his son can still improve. Another step in his game would go a long way toward achieving the lofty goals he’s set forth.

“I’m so hard on him so I’ll always say (he can improve on) everything,” Johnson said. “Got to be more consistent shooting, got to go in there and get more rebounds, be better with your passing, assists. On-ball and off-ball defense. So everything. After every season you’ve got to go back, watch film, get better at everything.”

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