Indiana Basketball Player Profile 2022-23: Xavier Johnson – Inside the Hall

With the start of the college basketball season on the horizon, we went from our look at other Big Ten programs to our player-by-player previews of Indiana’s 2022-23 roster.

Today our player profiles continue with a look at senior Xavier Johnson.

Previously: Malik Reneau, CJ Gunn, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Kaleb Banks, Tamar Bates, Logan Duncomb, Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway, Jordan Geronimo, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Miller Kopp

Talent was never a question for Xavier Johnson.

Before arriving in Indiana in the summer of 2021, Johnson started in the Pittsburgh ACC for three seasons.

As a freshman for the Panthers in the 2018-19 season, he averaged 15.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Those numbers landed him on the ACC freshman team. The other four freshmen on this team? Current NBA players Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Tre Jones and Coby White.

Johnson’s career at Pitt finally ended with him leaving the program in February 2021 and entering the transfer portal before the end of the season. In his second and third seasons for the Panthers, his numbers regressed from what he produced in his freshman year. His former coach, Jeff Capel, was irritated by Johnson’s propensity to pick up unnecessary technical fouls.

“Nothing I said worked,” Capel said in 2021. “We’ve been telling him for three years, two and a half years now: ‘Stop talking to the referees. Stop being demonstrative. Nothing we said worked.

Indiana’s coaching staff, however, saw Johnson’s intensity and passion paired with his talent as a potential upgrade for their roster.

As the Hoosiers returned Rob Phinisee and Khristian Lander, it was clear that Mike Woodson would need more position to enter the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Associate head coach Kenya Hunter recruited Johnson while in high school and maintained a strong relationship with him even after opting to go to Pitt. That connection eventually helped Johnson make it to Bloomington, where he was immediately slotted into the starting lineup last season.

There were ups and downs for Johnson in his first season in Bloomington, but ultimately Woodson and Hunter’s faith in him paid off. In the 2021-22 season, Johnson’s play helped bring Indiana back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years.

As Johnson enters his fifth and final season as IU’s point guard, the Hoosiers need him to take another step forward with his game and his maturity to achieve great expectations as a program.

Last season, Johnson was one of the Big Ten’s top distributors. His attendance rate ranked fourth in the conference. He also showed improved perimeter shooting, knocking down 38.3% of his attempts from deep. It was a career high. He was also one of Indiana’s most reliable free throw shooters at 78.2%.

Defensively, he was a mainstay of Indiana’s defense. He was disruptive on the ball and his steal percentage ranked 12th in the Big Ten.

The next step for Johnson is consistency. His numbers don’t need to be spectacular, but Indiana needs a high floor from him that he can rely on in every game. This was not the case last season until the end of the year. With an ambitious non-conference schedule and a top-15 preseason ranking, Indiana needs Johnson to be a consistent leader on and off the court.

“Watching him spend his summer job, because he’s had a taste of success, that’s the first time he’s ever experienced being in the big dance,” Woodson said. “He just came in with a totally different attitude, which was kind of nice to see. It means to me that he’s growing. It’s gone down well on the basketball court, because of all the summer games that I watched and participated in, he was probably the brightest of them all.

At the end of the line: Johnson is arguably the best point guard in the Big Ten and is a major key to Indiana’s Big Ten title hopes. After an off-season arrest, he said and did all the right things before the season and admitted his mistake. For Indiana to reach their cap as a team, Johnson needs to be a stable presence on the field and in the locker room. If that happens, the Hoosiers have legitimate Big Ten title aspirations.

Quotable“Well, when you look at what happened to X, where we started with X and where he ended up, X probably grabbed more hell out of this team than anyone from his head coach. He there’s a reason. I think when you’re building a basketball team you expect a lot from all of your players, but this position is a pivotal position in terms of how you play on both sides of the court. hung with me. He fought me at times, but it worked out well for him in the end and for our ball club.–Woodson at Indiana Media Day last month.

Filed in: 2022-23 Season Preview, Xavier Johnson

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