Montreal rewind: Robert Johnson

  • 08/19/2014 8:04 am in

Welcome to “Montreal rewind,” our player-by-player recap from Indiana’s five-game tour of Canada. Today: Robert Johnson. Previously: Nick Zeisloft, Devin Davis, Troy Williams, Yogi Ferrell.

After Robert Johnson went 0-of-6 in Indiana’s fourth game on its tour of Canada against McGill University, Tom Crean was surprised to learn that his freshman guard didn’t register a point in the contest.

From Crean’s perspective, the Richmond (Va.) native had a positive overall impact on the game, so the scoring void didn’t stick out when he had a chance to take a closer look at the statsheet.

“You know what’s funny, I don’t know who brought it up yesterday, but I hadn’t read the stat sheet when we talked,” Crean said after IU’s fifth and final game against UQAM. “I didn’t have any clue that he didn’t even score a point. I told him that’s the good news and the bad news.

“The good news is it didn’t affect him in my mind because we were asking him to do so many different things inside of the game. At the same time, he knew when we talked that he wasn’t as aggressive as he could be in looking for shots, in getting to the rim, in getting to the foul line. But, his seven boards, those things were good. I thought it was a great sign of somebody who went out there and impacted the game and it wasn’t his scoring.”

As a major piece of Indiana’s revamped backcourt, much will be expected out of Johnson in his first season in Bloomington.

The early returns in Canada were positive overall as the 6-foot-3 guard did a little bit of everything in averaging 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

He did struggle some with his shot (37 percent overall from the field), but it’s clear that Johnson will take on a major role early as a guard who can play on or off the ball. That versatility should allow Indiana to play frequently with Johnson, James Blackmon Jr. and Yogi Ferrell on the court at the same time.

“I think James and I are interchangeable when it comes to that,” Johnson said. “Between James, Yogi and myself, we can all initiate the offense and we are all threats so it just makes it easy.”

Unlike the average freshman, Johnson arrived in Bloomington with close to a college ready body, which should allow him to quickly adjust to the physicality that he’ll face in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers were frequently forced to play small in Canada, which placed an added emphasis on getting to the glass for Johnson.

It’s a theme that is likely to spill over to the regular season as Indiana figures to play plenty of three guard lineups, something Crean did at Marquette with success.

“I think the deflections part will be big (for Robert and James), I think the activity part, I think the rebounding part is going to be very big,” Crean said. “I’ve coached three-guard lineups before that rebounded the ball tremendously.

“They’re fully capable of being guys who can do numerous things for us and will be known for a lot more than just shooting, driving, offense, things of that nature. No question about it.”

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  • Hoosier Hall

    RJ was my favorite recruit for this season. He did struggle with his shot which was surprising but for his size he is a good rebounder and a great defender. He is a lot like Stan Robinson except RJ has a better shot. Stan is better at getting to the rim.

  • deebo

    I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up starting by the B1G season

  • ForeverIU

    I’m having trouble keeping track of everyone’s talents on this team. It’s either a sign of my early senility, or else this group is shaping up to be a stellar team.

  • Alford Bailey

    I find it hilarious that so many are concerned about RJ scoring after a couple of EXHIBITION games. Relax. The kid is gonna be a star in the very near future.

  • Outoftheloop

    Robert is a very high quality kid and a very high quality basketball player. Very mature sense of the game for a freshman. Indiana is going to love this kid.

  • IceCreamNCrimson

    He starts from day one IMO

  • WhatsUpKnight

    i don’t know if i’ve ever seen a team (any team, not just iu) that’s going to play this small and be this reliant on their guardsperimeter game. very curious to see how it works out.

    i personally think they’ll be a fun team to watch that will ultimately be good enough to make the tournament. but i dread we’re going to suffer a lot of frustration with the rebounding margin. and i’m definitely worried about how our defense will hold up, we may see the opposing teams get a lot of easy baskets.

  • Jrod

    Illinois had 3 starters that were guards they went deep in the tourney

  • Jrod

    Illinois 04-05 tourney runner ups

  • mckillio

    My biggest concern is how going so small is going to affect our guys by the end of the season. It has to take a toll at some point and that will probably be around B1G and NCAA tourney time.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    ah yes, good call. they started three exceptional guards. i took a quick look at the box score, and oddly enough they actually out rebounded UNC by 3 (and had double the offensive boards).

    should also be noted that UNC’s front court shot nearly 60% from the field, and the team had 3x as many ft attempts.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    yes, but we’re (hopefully) going to be a deeper team this year, at least in the backcourt. you do have to be concerned about the frontcourt though, and perhaps that’s good reason to stick with a 3-guard lineup most of the time. let’s hope JA and TP can step in and help immediately.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    oh yeah,and Illinois’ C fouled out in only 9 minutes. i can definitely see that game as the model for our upcoming season, for better or worse.

  • Jakedipo

    Not too surprising… Even the best shooters in the world like Ray Allen or Steph Curry will have nights where they are 0-6… but he bounced back for 17 the next game, which is good to see!

  • HoosierFan76

    That Illinois team was a lot better in the frontcourt than IU figures to be this season, though – they had a senior-year Roger Powell, Jr. at PF and 6’10” James Augustine at center. Yes, he fouled out in the title game in 9 minutes of play, but that was because the refs were letting Sean May get away with everything for UNC. Augustine didn’t deserve all those calls.

    Illinois also brought 7’2″ Nick Smith off the bench and had Sean Pruitt, Warren Carter and Jack Ingram at 6’8″ or taller. That Illinois team played a 3-guard offense, sure, but they had good depth at every position.

    I can’t remember a team that was so deep in the backcourt and so thin down low.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    very good point re: depth. no way they go undefeated that deeply into the season if they don’t have at least some kind of frontcourt presence, no matter how good their guards are.

    so definitely can’t make an apples to apples comparison, but maybe gives us some hope.

  • Snookafly

    Yeah, I was going to say Augustine was a legit 6’10 who went in the NBA draft. Didn’t Villanova have a really strong 3 or 4 guard team around that time?

  • Snookafly

    RJ is going to be a fantastic player in the years to come, but he still needs some polish. He is confident, but sometimes he forces things. On occasion he also got a little mixed up on defense. Not meant as criticism– just wanted to temper the talk of him being an immediate starter over some of the more experienced players.

  • Jrod

    They had Deron Williams enough said. All I was doing was stating that they had a 3 guard lineup. That team was really really good. That is like comparing the Varsity team to the 8th grade team. We don’t have that depth or players. I just hope we get in the tourney.

  • ForeverIU

    I wonder if it had partly to do with our team incorporating more zone defense in Canada, which from what I understand is not used as much as man-to-man in high school?

  • HoosierFan76

    I think that ‘Nova team is a better comparison – they even played 4 guards at times. They were still pretty successful – it’s the only other team that comes anywhere close to the makeup of this year’s IU team, and as I recall they were still a bit stronger for bigs.

  • BT

    Let’s look on the bright side: no one on these comment threads will be complaining about not enough touches in the post this year!

  • papawglen

    Where are you reading that everyone is worried about his scoring? Everyone is saying he will be a great player.

  • yimyames

    Starter from day one!

    ……soo that didn’t work, haha

  • Snookafly

    Do you mean against Laval? I know he didn’t start every game in Canada, but even if he had I wouldn’t bank on that being the norm. Troy started at the 5 up there, but I’d be shocked (and depressed) if he plays center during the season. Inject Hanner into the line-up and ask who’s going to replace Yogi at the 1, and I think RJ comes off the bench. I know he’s definitely not starting over JBJ. Of course with our depleted roster I guess anything is possible.

  • marcusgresham

    Here’s a little primer—if he’s new, he’s a shooter.

  • marcusgresham

    Kentucky once went to the championship game without a starter over 6’5″.

  • ForeverIU

    LOL, why didn’t I think of this simple and elegant algorithm?!!

  • Snookafly

    I want to say they were good the following year and ran into the buzz saw that was Florida.

  • Guyton25

    RJ is the man, indeed.

  • Kyl470

    Fife and Hornsby were both listed as guards, but they were in the 6’4″ and 6’5″ range. Plus Odle and Jefferies were 6’10” and you had Newton and Leach coming off the bench.

  • Eugene Debs

    I actually have not seen one comment (other than in the article) about him not scoring.