Freshman Focus: Robert Johnson

  • 06/04/2014 8:49 am in

“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s five incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of weeks, we will examine what kind of an impact each player can have for the Hoosiers next season. Today: Robert Johnson.

When Robert Johnson walked into the library at Benedictine College Preparatory on September 20, he was ready to end what had grown into an intense recruiting battle.

After an outstanding summer with the Boo Williams AAU program, Johnson, who at one time only held a scholarship offer from UNC-Greensboro, was a serious target for four schools: Florida State, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.

Once the family began taking its official visits last August, communication with the media by Johnson and his father, Robert Sr., slowed considerably. That left many in the dark on which direction he might be leaning in his decision.

Many believed that Johnson would head to Chapel Hill and play for Roy Williams at North Carolina, but the 6-foot-3 guard had a surprise for those who predicted that he would play in the ACC.

“I want to thank all the schools that recruited me and offered me a scholarship,” Johnson said, as he reached for a hat below the table where he sat in the library. “In the fall of 2014, I’m gonna be attending…”

Johnson then put on an IU basketball hat.

So how big was the secret that Johnson had just let out? Big enough that his high school coach, Ryan Marable, admits to not knowing which school he would pick until he pulled out the hat.

“When he pulled the hat out (is when I knew),” Marable recalls. “I didn’t want to know really. But he wasn’t telling even if I had begged.”

It was a major coup for the program, especially when you consider that James Blackmon Jr.’s recruitment was in serious doubt at the time following his decision to reopen his recruitment just a month earlier.

More importantly, it was the first step in fulfilling a major need that would become a theme with Indiana’s 2014 recruiting class: shooting.

“We addressed our needs with a capital ‘N’,” Tom Crean said last November, when discussing the commitments of Johnson, Blackmon Jr. and Max Hoetzel. “Downhill players that can make shots.”

Crean has often talked about recruiting versatile players who can play multiple positions and fill multiple roles within the program. That’s exactly what he’s getting with Johnson, according to Marable.

“One of the things we wanted to do, one of the goals we set (for his senior season) was, ‘what are you going to have to do your freshman year at Indiana?’ You’re not just going to have to shoot the ball,” Marable told Inside the Hall. “You’re going to have to handle it a little bit, you’re going to have to get them into the offense a little bit, you’re going to have to rebound the ball from the guard position, you’re going to have to guard quick point guards, two-guards, three-guards.”

“I feel like he really grew into almost a college freshman playing high school basketball this year.”

The numbers bear out Marable’s assessment of Johnson’s final high school season. He did a little bit of everything in leading Benedictine to a 25-7 record. His 24.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game led the Cadets and his effective field goal percentage (54.1) proves his efficiency.

“It’s a huge pickup because he solves three problems,” Boo Williams said back in September. “One, he can play point guard; two, he can play shooting guard; and three, he’s a shooter. They’re getting a hell of a player. He’s a great kid.”

Beyond the shooting prowess that Johnson will help infuse into Indiana’s backcourt, a major deficiency last season with the exception of Yogi Ferrell, there’s his defense, too, which Marable believes is an underrated aspect of his game.

“I think he’s a great defender, honestly,” Marable said. “He really understands the defensive part of the game. And he really embraces that aspect. Some kids that can shoot the ball, score the ball like him might not embrace it as much as he does but he really embraces the defensive end.”

Johnson, who will arrive in Bloomington later this month to begin summer classes and workouts, knows plenty of work lies ahead, but it’s a challenge he’s ready to embrace head on.

“The most important thing (this summer) is just getting my body right, getting stronger and just getting into college shape. I’m probably going to have to play a lot of minutes next year and with the type of schedule we’re going to play, I’ll have to have my body right and prepare for that.

“I think I can bring that toughness, defensive mindset to the team, shooting ability, scoring, those different aspects of my game. I think my game translates well to the Big Ten. I’m a guard who likes to play defense and takes pride in stopping my man and pushing it right back at them. I think it’s going to be fun playing in the Big Ten.”

Filed to:

  • MK

    Ro-bert John-son clap clap clap clap clap

  • 323SGrant

    Maybe we can put RoJo or Stan on DeAngelo Russell to slow him down when we play O$U.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    I’ve been really high on this kid for over a year.
    He is going to be such a compliment to IU in the backcourt.
    His commitment was overshadowed by the recruitment of JBJ, but make no mistake, he is right up there with the best recruits of 2014.
    Very smooth jump shooter with , IMO, the quickest side step jump shot IU has seen in years.
    Very much reminds me of Trey Burke.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Love this guy. We need more tough nosed guys that aren’t going to take any bs, but also conduct themselves in a controlled manor. I really think his prep/military training is going to come into play with his leadership as well. Very excited for Robert and IU. This is going to be a very good situation.

  • Rie

    Obviously I am excited about his ball handling and shooting capabilities, but his defensive prowess is what intrigues me. If he really is polished defensively as advertised, our perimeter D is going to be very strong. I think Yogi is underrated here in that regard, and we already have Stanford, who is able to defend the one through three well. On the whole, I have not been this excited about our guard rotation for a long time; Yogi, Blackmon, RJ and Stanford sounds stacked to me!

  • OhioHoosier

    I think this guy will end up being the most popular player in this class when it is all said and done!

  • David Macer

    The first time Fischer says “RJ for the three…GOOD !!!” is going to be amazing !!!

  • CreanFaithful

    I could hear him saying it while reading your post. Excellent thought!

  • CreamandCrimson

    Robert Johnson was a huge get for Coach Crean and staff and I think he has the ability to have a tremendous career at IU. What does he mean for this coming season (because if the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that focusing on anything too far in the future is pure folly)?
    -His development as a point guard/primary ball handler could be really critical for 5-10 minutes a game (more if Yogi gets in foul trouble or has a minor injury). I don’t think Stanford is well-suited to be a PG and I don’t want to take Blackmon Jr. away from the 2.
    -I don’t see us having fewer than 3 guards on the floor very often at all. I know it might make us a bit small to have Stan or James Blackmon or Robert Johnson at the “3” but we need to play to our strengths and the strength is clearly the backcourt.
    -Naturally, this pushes Troy Williams to the “4” (for the most part). We’ve discussed this before and I think he matches up well enough with most Big Ten power forwards and if he can improve his offensive game a bit and his defensive positioning some, he can be really successful in this role.

    Robert Johnson says all the right things and his improvement over the past several months shows he is doing all the right things. He has an important role to play as a versatile and skilled piece in what appears to be the most talented 4-deep backcourt we’ve had in a while. Best of luck Robert, we’ll be rooting for you!

  • I actually read it in Fisch’s voice.

  • marcusgresham

    Not only is he a good shooter, he is a well-trained shooter. Look how high his release is in that picture.

  • Kyl470

    I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this team goes with a four guard line up during stretches of the game. Yogi, Stan, RJ, JBJ, with Troy as the lone forward.

  • Bled4IU

    They will be going 4 guard a majority of the season, that is the style Crean runs.

  • Dee McDonald

    That could turn into their strategy to just run teams out of the gym…

  • Hoosier Hall

    Stan will probably draw that assignment. Man, that guy can score though.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Trey Burke +3 inches. I like the sound of that.

  • AZIU71

    Yogi, Blackmon, Johnson, Robinson those are four really good guards and my guess is we’ll all four for the next 2 years.

  • Gregory Spera

    Those are our five best players this season, so they need to be on the floor as much as possible. Don’t know how we can possibly play that small, with them all together on the floor, but that’s the team CTC has built, so it’s his responsibility to make it work. Here’s hoping. (And here’s hoping it all suddenly clicks for Hanner.)

  • HoosierGrampy

    That would be wonderful if every one of them had hops like Troy, but when reality sets in, who gets on the glass to start the breaks???

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I suppose people will disagree with me, but I think we will have one of the deepest, strongest back courts in the nation. I expect we will see substantial minutes with Yogi, JBJ & Stan on the floor at the same time, with RJ substituted in for both Yogi/JBJ at times.

    Everyone is worried about the front court, but a great back court combined with an undersized athletic front court isn’t the end of the world. I could see the team taking a leap in the right direction IF HMP can defend, rebound, and manage to not foul excessively.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I think you will be correct in that prediction. I imagine they will start HMP at the 5, I could see DD in the line-up subbing for Troy & HMP, but I don’t think we will see a lot of minutes without either HMP or Troy in the line-up. Troy’s athleticism should allow him to play out of position at the 4. If he’s getting beat up, then DD comes in….

  • hagster

    Don’t put up a banner just yet…………………

  • SCHoosier

    Rob’s commitment ..following JBjr’s decommitment put some life and spirit back into IU’s basketball fortunes. I loved the way his father/family got involved in the recruiting process while not making a circus out of it. This kid is a baller..probably four years..and just the kind of young man we want and need in the IU program. The sky is the limit for Rob Johnson.!!!

  • CreanFaithful


    edit: you probably meant it the way you phrased it

  • Bled4IU


  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Just trying to be optimistic about the obvious positives that he will bring to the table. I said it is going to be very good. Banner talk would be described as amazing or unstoppable.

  • Kyl470

    I imagine they will start the game with HMP at center and Troy at power forward and then some combo of the guards. My initial guess would be Yogi, JBJ, and Stan with RJ coming off the bench first.

  • Kevin Tolliver

    Im betting Hanner will shock a lot of people and be a dominant force inside. Teams will have to lay off him because our outside game will be so strong. If you over play outside the guards will go around you or find HP inside. The offense will be kicking the only question will be our D.

  • Kevin Tolliver

    of course not, but I agree our offense will give teams and will score with anyone next year. IF we can play a decent brand of Defense we will be a force to contend with.

  • Outoftheloop

    Who says that Russell can slow down either Robert or Stan? I give IU the advantage in this match up.

  • Outoftheloop

    Somehow he was voted the fan favorite in Louisville at the Derby Showcase. So I agree that Robert will be a fan favorite.

  • Outoftheloop

    I see Hanner, Devin, Troy, James and Yogi starting. But Stan and Robert are the first off the bench and could easily get as many or more minutes as Devin. Jeremiah spells Hanner. Max and Tim get minutes for real “heat” checks! I think that Hanner will be good and Devin very good! Troy will be great (All B1G)!

  • 323SGrant

    I’m on your side, but my comment was just referring to IU’s defense as the the article also said RoJo is a very good defensive player.

  • CreanFaithful

    I’d say without a doubt, Stan will be up for the challenge. Like most other Hoosier fans, I have no idea what to expect out of Rob… but I like what I’m hearing. 6 boards as a guard and leading scorer of his high school squad speaks volumes about his determination IMO. Time will tell.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    I hope your correct – and you may be. If those 2 players improve as discussed, IU will win 25+ games

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Our defense will be good. Yogi/Stan are already good defenders. HMP/DD/Troy could be scary good defenders. IDK about JBJ’s defense, but sometimes a good defense is a great offense …

  • CreamandCrimson

    Hanner, Devin and Troy all have a long way to go before they are good on defense, let alone “scary good”. Last season, Devin Davis couldn’t defend without fouling, Hanner was never in a position to consistently show how he could defend and Troy was overly aggressive with often dreadful positioning.

    That’s not to say they can’t make a lot of progress but to assume that all three are going to be excel defensively is expecting an awful lot from guys that haven’t shown it yet.

  • kaponya44

    “Many believed “…….I love to see well served crow ..That was gourmet style … I hope “many believed” resurfaces at the beginning of an article looking back on how well Priller and April did in their freshman year despite many believing what they believe ..LOL