Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Robert Johnson.
Johnson (30 games): 8.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 58.6% eFG, 63.9% FT, 44.7 3PFG% in 24.9 minutes per game.
Robert Johnson’s sophomore season was one of growth. The tough minded guard from Richmond, Virginia saw his shooting percentage from the perimeter improve, his turnover rate decrease and his assist rate increase.
Johnson shot nearly 45 percent on 3s in his second season, increased his assist rate by five percentage points and dropped his turnover rate by more than one percent.
While his offensive numbers may not jump off of the page, Johnson’s biggest contribution to the Hoosiers was his work as a perimeter defender. As elite as Indiana was offensively, it won the Big Ten outright by two games because of its defense and Johnson was a key contributor.
In games where the Hoosiers needed help defensively in the post, it was Johnson who often doubled down successfully. The best example was the Purdue game, where Johnson wreaked havoc all night on Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons in the post.
Of course, the Purdue game was also a season-changing moment for Johnson. In the IU win over the Boilermakers at Assembly Hall, he injured his left ankle late in the second half and missed subsequent games against Illinois, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan as a result.
Johnson would return for the NCAA tournament for games against Chattanooga and Kentucky, but hurt the ankle again against the Wildcats. As a result of the second injury, he could only sit and watch as the Hoosiers fell to North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen in Philadelphia.
“As much as Robert wanted to play,” Tom Crean said in an interview a few days after the season ended. “There just wasn’t enough healing to take that risk. It wasn’t a judgement call for me. It was a doctor’s call.”
Johnson’s offseason will be one of recovery as he underwent successful surgery on April 1 to repair damage to his left ankle.
With the graduation of Yogi Ferrell and the potential departure of Troy Williams to the NBA, Johnson is likely to take on a much much more prominent role next season in Bloomington. He’ll be the program’s best returning ball handler, but will need to continue improving his decision making in order to successfully slide over into the point guard role on a full-time basis.
Assuming Johnson is healthy and continues the path of improvement he showed between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he and James Blackmon Jr. should be one of the best backcourts in the Big Ten next winter.
Bottom Line: While he’s not talked about as much as some of Indiana’s more prominent players nationally, Johnson was an integral part of Indiana’s run to the Big Ten regular season title. There’s no question that his injury late in the season hurt the team, but the Hoosiers were fortunately able to navigate his absence during the last three regular season games to clinch the league crown. He was a major reason Indiana was able to beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament round of 32 as he came off the bench and hit two key 3-pointers in the first half to help the Hoosiers grab a halftime lead. And his competitiveness was on display the next week when he told reporters that he wanted to play against North Carolina, but the medical staff ultimately decided to shut him down instead of risking further injury. As he moves into the second half of his career in an IU uniform next season, look for Johnson to take another step forward and become one of the team’s leaders.
Quotable: “That guy is a heck of a competitor and athlete. He’s a basketball player as a whole. I love that dude so much. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever played with.” – Nick Zeisloft on Johnson
Filed to: Robert Johnson