A Salute to Xavier Johnson, the Misunderstood Soldier

Malik Reneau and Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball
Malik Reneau and Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

There was no shortage of hate flung in Xavier Johnson's direction during the 2023-2024 season. There is also no denying how vital his competitive spirit was to this program over the course of the past three seasons.

Following 2.5 campaigns of explosive (albeit inefficient) output at Pittsburgh, the product of Virginia transferred to IU shortly after the hiring of Mike Woodson. He was extremely solid in his inaugural season in B-Town, averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.1 APG (compared to just 2.6 TOPG). In year two, he was forced to adjust from his typical primary table-setter role to secondary playmaking duties with the arrival of prized freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. While he was performing admirably in his new title (9.9 PPG and 4.9 APG/2.8 TOPG in 11 games played), a broken foot thwarted any opportunity for him to continue sprouting within that realm.

Xavier Johnson
Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Thankfully, the NCAA granted XJ a medical hardship waiver following the conclusion of last season. Just like that, the team had it's tone setter back for another year. Not only that, but it safe to say that Johnson had a chip on his shoulder spawned from the natural desire to bounce back stronger from those unforeseen obstacles in life. Most assumed it was going to be a monster year for the senior, and that assumption was supported by his preseason All-Big Ten second team selection.

In the months building up to the start of the season itself, all signs seemed to indicate that Xavier Johnson could be a force to be wrecken with in 2023-2024.

Xavier Johnson
Xavier Johnson, Indiana Men's Basketball / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

In the months that actually accompanied the 2023-2024 season, the road was a rocky one for Johnson. From multiple injury setbacks to scoring struggles to technical fouls and even an unsportsmanlike ejection, there were a plethora of reasons why things simply did not go according to plan this year. Throughout all of the adversity, fans were quick to chuck heavy amounts of criticism in Johnson's direction.

Throughout all of the hate and all of the doubt, there are still an abundance of reasons why XJ will live on forever in the hearts of the true Indiana faithful. He was the throttle that revved the engine of this squad. His toughness was unparalleled. The gritty point guard was never shy when it came to rolling up his sleeves and getting physical.

Xavier Johnson may not be among the greatest point guards to sport the candy stripes, but he is undoubtedly among the greatest competitors in the history of the cream and crimson. He is surely someone that any of his teammates would go to war with, and his presence will be sorely missed next year.

Keep going, XJ!

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