Xavier Johnson - The Hoosier Daily

Xavier Johnson – The Hoosier Daily

With Indiana’s offseason roster changes behind us, we’re resuming our annual tradition of taking a closer look at players who should return to the program.

Up next is point guard Xavier Johnson, who is training for his fifth year of college basketball and sophomore with IU.

2021-22 FIGURES

After transferring to IU from Pittsburgh, Johnson started all 34 games he played in the 2021-22 season.

The Virginia product was second on the team in averaging 12.1 points and led the team in assists (172, 5.1 per game) and steals (40, 1.2 per game) . He was also second on the team in 3-point shooting (38.3%), shot 78.2% from the line, and was second in free throws made with 115.

The 6-foot-3 Johnson was named an honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media. His assists total was the fifth-highest in a season in program history, and his season-per-game average was the eighth-best all-time.

WHAT WAS GOOD

Ultimately, Johnson was the best point guard in the Big Ten, making major strides and showing he was coachable in the process.

He averaged 14.2 points, 5.9 assists and shot 41.4% from long range in the last 17 games of the season, and he was even better than those numbers in the last five of the regular season and of the Big Ten tournament. Indiana’s late-season push to the NCAA Tournament just doesn’t happen without its top-flight finish.

Johnson brought a lot of long-missing qualities to point guard, including elite quickness and an ability to finish on the edge, he got to the line and made free throws, and Johnson was a very good defender at the top of the defense. He also had the best turnover of his career, nearly three percentage points better than any of his first three seasons.

Although his shooting mechanics were unconventional, Johnson was exactly the kind of shooter IU needed from point guard on the stretch, making open shots when the defense crumbled. And as a perimeter shooter, he’s learned not to force things over the year.

OFF-SEASON DEVELOPMENT NEEDS

1. Keep emotions under control. The Xavier Johnson experience is like a thrill ride that you can’t get off. One minute it’s exhilarating, the next scary, and you never know what awaits you around the next bend. In some ways, it’s this very nature that makes Johnson so effective. But at the end of the season, Mike Woodson said “I’m trying to get him to play without recklessness”, and it was when Johnson called things back just a hair’s breadth and found his teammates more, that it all started to click. .

Of course, there was more to Johnson than just on the pitch. His driving incident in the offseason is well documented, he was one of the suspended ‘Northwest Five’ and Johnson seems to find his way into hot moments on the court, like late in the game at Ohio State and at home against Rutgers.

It’s a very fine line with Johnson, but he’ll be doing his team and his professional future a big favor if he can stay out of the unfavorable spotlight.

3. Score on the move away from the basket. Johnson surprised on the upside with his 38.3% conversion rate from deep, more than three percentage points better than his previous career-best season. But Johnson has only made 14 3-pointers all season that haven’t been assisted, and he’s only shot 28 percent on 2-pointers from far from the rim. Combined in those two numbers, there’s one player who struggled to score the rebound if you could get him away from the rim (where he made 54% of his shots). The Wisconsin game planned Johnson better than anyone, forcing him to a 2-of-17 shot from midrange in two games. He battled Illinois the same way.

Hope is largely moot with Johnson’s improvement over the season. But there’s no doubt teams will be looking to chase Johnson from catch and 3-point shooting opportunities while keeping him clear of the rim. Johnson has NBA-level aspects to both his game and his athletic ability, but it’s clearly an area that would hold him back if he didn’t develop.

2. Stay away from mistakes. In nine games last year, Johnson committed four or more fouls. He fouled twice and spent several first halves sitting next to Woodson with two early fouls. This is where we plug in the “best capacity is uptime” cliché. Johnson’s aggressive style leads to more fouls, and you wouldn’t want to completely eliminate that aspect of his game. But there are techniques to avoid fouls, and it’s usually Johnson’s overactive hands that got him into trouble.

WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE IN 2022-23

Let’s face it, Xavier Johnson’s end of season is now the norm. If he plays like he did in 2021-22, Johnson is likely first- or second-team All-Big Ten, and he’ll likely propel a few of his teammates to some level of All-Big Ten stature as well. . That’s all key with Johnson, playing at a high level while upping his teammates’ play along the way.

If Johnson can maintain last year’s production in his last 17 games while staying out of trouble on and off the court, his final season of college basketball will be a great success.

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