Johnson uses NBA draft process as learning experience

  • 07/13/2017 9:54 am in

Robert Johnson wanted to hear directly from NBA teams.

In a move that was surprising to some, Johnson declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent in April before officially withdrawing his name on May 22.

It was a risk-free move that wouldn’t have been possible a couple of years ago, but a rule change that took effect in the spring of 2016 now allows players to test the NBA waters without risking their eligibility.

And that’s exactly what Johnson did.

“I think I got a lot of good feedback as to what I need to work on, things I need to show going forward,” Johnson said Tuesday in his first public comments since withdrawing his name from the draft process. “So I think it’s just good to have those things in mind as you try to progress.”

Johnson, who averaged 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior, has helped set the tone this summer as Archie Miller builds his first Indiana team.

In late May, Miller said that Johnson was “probably been about as focused of a basketball player that I’ve been around,” and commended the senior guard for his decision to seek feedback from the NBA.

“He wanted the feedback, he wanted the information from people to see what he needed to do to improve,” Miller said. “I think that was his whole plan. I think that’s what is really great about the rule. There’s certain guys that really take advantage of it. He did.”

The next step for Johnson is taking the feedback and implementing it into his game. One question that Johnson needs to answer in the eyes of the NBA: Can he play point guard?

It’s a question that he hasn’t answered over his first three seasons as Yogi Ferrell held those duties his first two seasons and Josh Newkirk was the primary point guard last season.

“A couple things that they talked about was they wanted to see if I could play point guard at a high level,” Johnson said Tuesday. “And have the ability to run a team, and just be more consistent throughout the year.”

The consistency piece will be important for Indiana next season as the Hoosiers seek to replace three players who left early for theNBA. Johnson will be the team’s leading returning scorer.

As a junior, he finished second on the team in scoring average and was also second in assists. But he also tied for a team-high in turnovers at 2.3 per game.

The Hoosiers have struggled with turnovers in recent seasons, but will look to reverse the trend under Miller. Several Indiana players acknowledged on Tuesday that cutting down the turnovers has already been a major focus in offseason workouts.

And Indiana will need Johnson to be one of the leaders in that regard.

“I think it just all comes down to decision making,” he said. “Making the simple play right when it’s available and just doing that over and over again.”

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  • TomJameson

    I expect some good things from RJ. One of those is his shooting, I think he’ll probably have a little more usage … not a lot more, but more nonetheless. Another area that he fixes better be his turnover rate. That goes for everybody, of course.

    Then he has to pick up his defense, which I think it might be a little easier for him because he is already a good defender. I think he might become one of the lock-down defenders on the team. Hopefully there’ll be a couple.

    Right up there is his vocal leadership. It sounds like he’s going to be successful at that part (according to Collin), but he has to carry it through the season. I actually think CH will be huge in the leadership area, but RJ needs to lead this team.

  • iugradmark

    I thought the interview segment with Rob and Josh was a little odd. Josh seemed to be very quiet and almost seemed like he was trying to hide behind the microphone. Rob was pretty open and forthcoming but he is basically a quiet guy.

    We really need the older guys to buy in and help bring along the rest of the team. Because of their role, Guards and particularly point guards tend to be leaders on the floor. I am hoping both of these guys have a really great season.

  • JethroTroll

    I would love to see Robert take those necessary couple of steps forward and become an elite playmaking/scoring guard, but Im not sure that’s what he is. For him to even sniff the NBA, he’d really have to cut down on his turnovers, improve his decision making immensely, improve his ball handling drastically, and become a much more consistent scoring threat.
    But fortunately, he’s still in college. And what IU needs from him in his senior year is to be a team leader, cut down on his turnovers, and become a more consistent player that you know what you’re getting night in and night out. If he gives us that, IU can be pretty good. Anything more than that I’d consider gravy.

  • Bill Graham

    Am I the only one who is uncomfortable with Josh Newkirk being our point guard?? I would much rather see the ball in Rob’s hands. I’d also love to see RJ cut back on some careless turnovers and learn how to be a clutch go-to-guy. There have been some times in the past 3 seasons where it just seems like Rob just passed the other team the ball (like almost purposefully –obviously an exaggeration)…

    Anyway I know its a bit too early to talk about starting 5’s and I know Archie is fond of seniors and I know it will (probably) end up being (JN, RJ, CH, JM, and DD)…but I’d almost rather see (RJ, DG, CH, JM, DD) or dare I say (RJ, JS, CH, JM, DD).

  • Bill Graham

    Great points as always Tom. I’d like to see RJ take the same/similar steps to what Tai Webster did for Nebraska last year. For a short while Nebraska was a contender and always a tough game b/c Webster was clutch. He’d upp’d his scoring averages by over 7 points per game in just one season. If RJ could take a similar leap and average 17-18 ppg and 4-5 assts. I think we’re looking at a top 5 BIG team.

  • marcusgresham

    As far as Newkirk being a spark off the bench, I kind of think that’s what Green is. If he were a starter I certainly couldn’t argue against it, but he comes in and makes things happen.
    I also think Newkirk was a lot better in the 2nd half of the season than he was to start it. The thing that could be done there is to have the PG/SG fluctuate…if Newkirk continues to hit his shots, that is. If it goes back and forth between Newkirk and Johnson, one of them is going to be a match-up problem–as fast as Newkirk is I would think keeping up with him when he doesn’t have the ball in his hand would be kind of difficult. He could almost be a slasher from a wing/up top like Troy Williams was on the baseline.