Hoosier Men's Hoops: Sights Set on Senior Xavier Johnson

Xavier Johnson, Indiana University Men's Basketball
Xavier Johnson, Indiana University Men's Basketball / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Prior to his commitment to play for Jeff Capel the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, Xavier Johnson was a relatively unheralded prospect in that year's incoming class of freshman. After leading the team in scoring as a freshman (15.5 points per game), it was crystal clear that the Panthers had landed a diamond in the rough. The product of Washington D.C. went on to give Pitt two additional seasons of rock solid scoring and playmaking, before his sudden decision to leave the program and enter the transfer portal following the 2020-21 season. This decision encountered ample amounts of interest from major program's all over the country, but his next decision was to migrate to Indiana and continue his basketball journey under the wings of newly hired Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson. The cream and crimson were ecstatic to have him, and they knew he was going to be an integral part of the team immediately following his outstanding efforts at Pitt.

The feisty floor general was stellar throughout his first campaign with the Hoosiers, contributing nightly averages of 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists (compared to 2.6 turnovers) and 1.2 steals on shooting clips of 40.6/38.3/78.2. He established control of the offense from the get-go, and provided an invaluable source of vocal leadership on defense. Last season, he was joined in the backcourt by blue chip freshman prospect Jalen Hood-Schifino. Many were unsure how the two ball-dominant point guards would co-exist, and it took JHS some time to catch on in his first season.

Following Johnson's season-ending foot injury in December a year ago, Hood-Schifino's responsibilities were increased and the freshman was able to play on less of a leash in his backcourt mate's absence. The youngster's maturation was monstrous when comparing season's start to finish, and his name being called with the 17th overall selection in the 2023 NBA draft was proof of that. While Jalen should no doubt receive much of the credit for his perseverance through the early rough patch, Xavier's wisdom from the bench was another huge dose of his development. Johnson was more or less the trainer in Hood-Schifino's corner, offering him the knowledge he needed as he continued to roll with the punches.

Following the conclusion of the 2022-2023 campaign, Johnson was awarded a medical hardship waiver allowing him to return to the pilot's seat in Bloomington for the 2023-2024 season. With such an extensive collection of experience, the 6th year senior was expected to have another big year. But the preseason All-Big Ten second teamer has looked a step slower than his pre-injury self, and has been dealing with an injury setback since just a few games into the year. He has missed each of the Hoosiers's last 3 games, and it is obvious that his team misses him after the drubbing they endured at the hands of Auburn.

Johnson's return status remains unclear, but one thing that is clear is that the Indiana University men's basketball team will desperately need him back healthy in order to do any serious damage in 2023-2024.