Indiana is now even-steven on the transfer front. Guard Al Durham left for Providence and guard Xavier Johnson has pledged to join the Hoosiers after three years at Pitt.
As is the case with most sane basketball fans outside Pittsburgh’s city limits, I spend very little time watching the Panthers serve as a punching bag for ACC rivals. Johnson’s game was a mystery to me until it was rumored he was considering a move to Bloomington.
So I embarked on the journey to get to know Xavier Johnson as well as possible through online research.
Here are eight fun facts (one actually not so fun) learned over the past week watching videos, reading reports, and listening to interviews about Johnson:
- Johnson was a good player on a bad team. Pitt cobbled together a 15-39 ACC record while Johnson averaged 13.7 points and five assists per game during two full seasons and a third which ended a little bit early – more on that later.
- Johnson and Durham are very different stylistically, but almost identical in offensive efficiency and free throw percentage. Johnson tends to dominate the ball, while Durham moved it.
- Finishing though contact at the rim is not a problem for Johnson. He clearly knows how to play with the ball in his hands, and doesn’t get knocked far off balance by defenders.
- Was offered by Georgetown, Nebraska, Creighton, and Georgia Tech in addition to Pitt as the player ranked 232nd in the 2018 class.
- Three-point shooting is not Johnson’s strength, and his percentage has regressed each year with the Panthers from a freshman mark of 35.2% to 33% as a sophomore to 32.1 in his final year.
- Dropping dimes is a big part of Johnson’s game. He averaged 5.7 assists per game last year, and his assist percentage ranked fourth in college basketball. No one on Indiana’s roster last year averaged three assists.
- Johnson turns it over quite a bit too. Indiana’s Armaan Franklin and Trayce Jackson-Davis tied for the team lead with 2.2 turnovers per game. Johnson added 50% to their respective totals for a per game average of 3.3.
- Left Pitt with two games remaining in the 2020-2021 regular season. Coach Jeff Capel said in a statement after Johnson left, “it was in everyone’s best interests that we part ways.” Who knows whether that is as bad as it sounds. Whatever Johnson’s relationship with teammates and Capel, it’s hard to justify bolting his program with less than three weeks to play.
- Was recruited by Indiana assistant Kenya Hunter, who was at Nebraska at the time. Given the relationship between Hunter and Johnson, it would stand to reason that if he is a problem child incapable of dealing appropriately with adversity and a coach, Hunter would have insight into that and Indiana would have passed on Johnson.
Johnson appears to be a talented player who decided at an inopportune moment to sever ties with a program that was not a good fit. Whatever caused that acrimony, coach Mike Woodson knows about it and has decided his talent is worth the potential headache.