Robert Johnson playing major role in Indiana’s success

  • 12/06/2014 8:37 am in

From the time he was recruited to Indiana, Robert Johnson knew he would have an immediate role to play for the Hoosiers.

Through seven games of his college career, Johnson has done just that. He has started every game in which he has played, averaging 29.7 minutes per game. He is scoring 11.3 points per game and producing 4.1 rebounds per game, four assists per game and an effective field goal percentage of 60.4. He also was named to the Wayman Tisdale Award Watch List — an award given to the nation’s best freshman.

Johnson also is expected to start, once again, for Indiana’s game against Savannah State at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Despite the immediate pressure to succeed, though, Johnson said on Tuesday he is comfortable running the team. It’s exactly what he came to Indiana to do.

“I think those are some of the things coach (Tom) Crean talked to me about when he recruited me,” Johnson said. “When you come here as a guard you’re expected to do multiple things, and he only recruits versatile players. You’ve got to be able to rebound, drive the ball, dish it out, make smart decisions, just be a complete player.”

When Crean recruited Johnson from Benedictine College Preparatory (Va.), he quickly realized what value the 6-foot-3 guard could hold for his program. Playing under coach Ryan Marable, Crean saw Johnson as someone who was tenacious on defense and still had plenty of room to improve.  He said the Hoosiers were “very, very fortunate” to have had Johnson join the program.

Marable and Johnson’s family were in attendance during his first game as a Hoosier on Nov. 14 against Mississippi Valley State. Johnson, in his debut, scored 15 points, recorded seven rebounds, and had five assists and three steals.

“Robert had a very good week and just continues to improve,” Crean said after the game. “His defense continues to be even more tenacious. Because, certainly, we saw that in him when we recruited him and saw his ability for that. I’m excited that he got to play in front of not only his family, but his coach who was in the back. He got to see a product of his work.”

Johnson’s desire to improve has stemmed simply from the skill on the team. Growing up with three brothers, he said, led to a competitive attitude that has translated on the court. And with Indiana’s competitive players in similar positions to Johnson — from Yogi Ferrell to Nick Zeisloft to James Blackmon Jr. — it has led to bringing the best out of himself.

In his short time here already, Crean has noted Johnson has improved especially in playing with his eyes up, playing big despite his size and also playing off the ball.

But what has set Johnson apart on the Hoosiers has not been any of his physical attributes. It’s his mental strength.

“Robert needed to be on the floor,” Crean said following Indiana’s win over Texas Southern. “He makes a lot of things happen. I think a great example tonight, we were trying to get the third foul on No. 1, and we called an action, and he got it isolated and he took it, and he had a path to the rim, but he also had a wide-open player in the corner, and he made the pass. That’s maturity. For a guy that scored a lot of points in high school, that’s tremendous maturity to give the ball up that way.”

It still is early in Johnson’s career, however, as a freshman he already is playing a significant role for the Hoosiers. Just this Tuesday he recorded a career-high nine assists in Indiana’s win over Pittsburgh to go with 18 points.

Ferrell has praised him for making “great decisions” and being “very poised” on the court. Crean has described Johnson as a “gym rat,” as well. Crean also has high hopes for the Richmond, Va., native.

He knows Johnson is capable of long-term success at Indiana.

“James and Rob are being asked a lot and they’re capable of that,” Crean said. “So, with that will come more growth, just like it does for everybody else on the team.”

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  • SCHoosier

    Outstanding poise for a freshman. As Rob’s “handle” improves..so will he. Need his defense and boards. 3pt ability is a bonus and should also improve. Really glad he’s a Hoosier!

  • Cm

    He’s already showing how much more effective height can be at the point. I, like most fans, will always love Yogi; he was one of the saviors. But those four inches (at least) that RJ has over him is an enormous advantage in almost every category. I like him better at the 1 than Yogi next year ceteris paribus.

  • Andy Rafael Aguilera

    If I recall, Crean pushed really hard on RJ once Blackmon decommitted. I can’t help but wonder if we would have gotten him had that not happened.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Great read Jordan! You are really hitting your stride by being a 365 day a year guy. Great stuff, without question. No doubt about it.

  • Zach

    Great all around player and easily my favorite on the team. Praying we can hold on to this kid for years to come and watch him get even better.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    We are indeed fortunate to have him, and Blackmon as well.
    Robert has shown a tenacity on the boards that kind of surprised me.
    I was aware of his defense and offense, but he does play bigger than he is, and that can never be a bad thing.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    Agreed, I enjoyed this article very much.

  • Dagwoods

    You know, we’ve had some players in the news – and I don’t fault them personally for getting into trouble many kids their ages do, but as some recruit’s mom might have recently been disappointed with what has been going on, there are 10 or more other players on the team that are doing just fine and setting great examples and many will leave here with better opportunities because they came here in the first place. Yes, this is a great place to come and succeed, but it is up to the individual to see that that happens!

  • David Macer

    Ms. Bryant has only heard what the media has stated. If she or Thomas were really concerned they would go to the source. When you are making a decision such as Bryant’s you need ALL the facts.

  • Bruce Clark

    My thoughts exactly. I would also suggest that not every program monitors their players over the summer as well as IU – and maybe wouldn’t report nor discipline players like Robinson, et. al. were disciplined.

    Look at the overall record, including graduation rate, and I believe IU stacks up very well to all other programs.

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    I’m thrilled to see RJ take over the point guard duties. I really am enjoying watching the games now. Consider: 9 assists against Pitt. Only 2 turnovers. That’s impressive. And he and JBJ seem to have excellent chemistry too.

    The question going forward that I’m watching for: What to do with yogi. He is now primarily a wing player, but he’s short, his wing defense is weak (and that may be an optimistic statement) while this team may not need his offense going forward. And teams haven’t yet posted yogi up much, but they will. Does CTC consider bringing him off the bench and putting more size/rebounding at the wing? We certainly need the rebounding and defense. In other words, as RJ (and JBJ) develop, is yogi odd man out? IF this team develops, that may turn out to be the case.

  • SilentBob

    Idk bout the last few sentences, because the strength of this team is having multiple ball handlers who can attack and shoot. To not play to our strengths would be counter productive imo. I’m digging the duel pg system we have going on right now.

  • SilentBob

    4 straight yrs with a perfect APR. Check and mate Ms Bryant lol

  • SilentBob

    Exactly! I understand the protective nature of his mother, my mom was the same way, but if she think there is a single school where her son won’t be exposed to alcohol and drug use she’d be wrong. She is upset they didn’t disclose that information on the visit? Again understandable, but there isn’t a single University that would have until it was made public. I mean jeez, the school number one on his list is currently being investigated for supposed years of hiding results of drug tests and such.

  • IUMIKE1

    I don’t know if she is just trying to find a reason for him not to come to IU, because she wants him to stay closer to home or if she is saying these things trying to justify to herself, out of guilt for feeling that way, that IU isn’t the best choice or what. I do know that, while JB may care about his players, I don’t think he cares about them like TC does, nor do I think he watches over them more closely or with more genuine interest in their well being than TC does. As far as academics go, well I think each respective school’s bball program’s record in that category pretty much speaks for itself and it isn’t IU coming in second in that comparison. She may just be saying that to see if Crean is willing to show her and her son more love and attention or just how he will react to what she is saying. It’s the wacky wacky world of college bball recruiting and who the hell knows for sure what her rationale is. lol

  • IUMIKE1

    Exactly the jest of my reply to David Macer above.

  • Outoftheloop

    U VA had identical 4 game suspensions (2 exhibitions and 2 real games) to 2 starters for off-season team rule violations as IU had with Troy and Stan. And that is a pretty clean program much like IU. Syracuse and UNC have much bigger and deeper problems. Welcome to the world of Big Time College BB!

  • Michael Crawley

    There are so many players I like on this team. This is Yogi’s team though make no mistake it is his team. I love RJ he is competitive and he keeps coming at you.

  • Dylan Wallis

    youre a fool lol what are you talking about? without yogi this engine would not be running. even with the magnificent play of RJ

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    Dylan,
    When yogi sits do ALL the other IU players prove themselves ineffective? Too weak to move or score? Observation: there is already little to no offensive drop off when yogi leaves the court. Observation: IU already is defending as well or better with yogi on the bench, particularly against bigger teams.