2015-2016 Player Profile: Robert Johnson

  • 10/12/2015 10:37 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’re taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster this month. Today, we continue our look at Indiana’s roster with Robert Johnson.

Robert Johnson enters his second season at Indiana as a player on the rise.

After a solid freshman season that wasn’t recognized around the rest of the league because of some of the other great young guards, Johnson went to work this offseason hungry to become even better.

In May, Johnson traveled with Troy Williams to Houston to work with John Lucas. He spent time back in Richmond, Virginia working out with his high school coach, Ryan Marable. And of course, he spent time in Bloomington working out with his teammates and new strength and conditioning coach, Lyonel Anderson.

A major focus of Johnson’s offseason was working to simplify his shot. Eliminating wasted motion and finding a consistent landing space were two of the major areas Johnson focused on improving all summer.

“He was a guy who I didn’t think shot nearly as good as he’s capable of shooting,” Crean said of Johnson recently. “He’s made a lot of strides in his improvement of shooting, especially the way he lands because he’s a jump shooter, and a lot of times jump shooters have a tough landing spot. He’s really worked on landing in the right place, which is really just a little bit forward.”

There’s also room for growth for Johnson with his ball handling and defense. Like many freshmen, he struggled to defend consistently. His turnover percentage of 24.2 was also among the highest on the roster.

Working on details like footwork, being able to use both hands more efficiently and decision making were all stressed in the offseason as well.

Now comes putting the improvement to good use on a team with significant expectations. Johnson started all of last season for the Hoosiers, but it’s possible his role could shift a bit this year with less guard depth. If Johnson, James Blackmon Jr. and Yogi Ferrell all remain as starters, Indiana would only have Nick Zeisloft and walk-on Harrison Niego available off the bench.

However his role shakes out in terms of starting versus coming off the bench, Johnson’s growth and development as a sophomore is a key storyline entering the season. Indiana knows what it should get from guys like Ferrell and Troy Williams. But if Johnson is able to make major strides, the Hoosiers have a chance to be that much better.

Bottom Line: Comb through the preseason magazines and there’s not much being written about Johnson despite the fact that he posted nearly a 53 effective field goal percentage as a freshman. Opposing defenses will be focused on stopping Ferrell, Williams, Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant, which means Johnson is going to have opportunities on the offensive end. Where Indiana really needs him to grow, however, is on the defensive end. Look for Crean to challenge Johnson, who is capable of much more on defense than he showed as a freshman, to do more in terms of applying ball pressure in his sophomore season.

Quotable: “I think it’s amazing that he shot 39 percent (on 3s) and he’s still willing to change and they think he can get better at it. He’s so mature. Even as a young kid when I had him as a sixth grader to a senior in high school, his maturity really allowed him to really take the good and the bad away from his freshman season at Indiana.” – Johnson’s high school coach, Ryan Marable.

Previously: Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan, O.G. Anunoby, Harrison NiegoTim Priller

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  • straight no chaser

    Rawle Alkins should be RJ’s understudy when he comes, if he does.

  • Young Hoosier

    Lol. That wouldn’t happen. He’d be a starter from Day 1.

  • straight no chaser

    I didn’t say he wouldn’t start.

  • SilentBob

    It’s not that we can’t, so much as we probably won’t.

  • SilentBob

    Since I have the day off today I felt the need to clarify my comment. Yes I think we will be a much better defensive team this year for reasons I will clarify in a bit, but no I don’t think we can be top 25 because of our agreement that Crean has has an inability to coach great defensive teams. In the KenPom rankings he has only fielded a top 15 defense once (13th) in the very first year of the rankings. Strangely enough it was the next year when Marquette plummeted to the 119th best defense that they made the final four.

    But back to my original comment. Yes we need to get a lot better technique and scheme wise defensively. But one of the best ways to limit an opponents scoring is to minimize easy buckets that come in transition and win the turnover margin. For dramatic purposes I will compare some conference stats of IUs to Wisconsins last year.

    As a team we shot 70% from the free throw line which was strangely enough good for 7th. Take away Yogi and JBJ and our team shot it for 65%. Wisconsin averaged 76% from the line which was good for fourth. Missed free throws aren’t just bad for your offense, but if rebounded by the opponent it will give them a great oppurtunity to advance the ball across half court before your defense is set usually with your big man last to the scene.

    Also despite leading the big ten in FG attempts, we were only 10th in 2 point attempts. Yes long misses can provide offensive rebounds, but if you don’t get them they can lead to fast breaks for the opponents.

    Finally we were -20 in the total turnover department against our opponents last year, and coughed up the 6 most total turnovers overall. We also had the ball stolen from us 93 times in conference. 29 more times than Wisconsin. Which leads to a lot of breaks. Of course we also had more possessions but not even close to enough to make that justifiable. Wisconsin was +26 in the turnover battle, and it wasn’t because they were super good at forcing turnovers. One of only two teams in the big whose opponents had less total turnovers than IU.

    If you are starting 3 guards 6’3 and under, with your only player taller than 6’7 providing just 174 total conference minutes, you have to take care of the ball better than everyone else. And you have to make free throws. Hopefully the addition of Thomas Bryant will help balance out the two point to three point attempt ratio. Obviously not even close to the overall solution but it would certainly help our defense a lot if we can be a lot better in all these areas next year.

  • Outoftheloop

    Optimistic, yes! But fully rational! Robert and Yogi 15 each. Troy and James 17 each. Thomas 10. That equals 74. 8 points for the rest of the team = 82, best O in the country. Injuries are part of the game. If 1 of these 4 is injured, then Nick, Collin and Max have to score. Fouls for a Freshman Big are part of the game. If Thomas has foul trouble, then Juwan, OG and Max have to score.

  • straight no chaser

    Thank you for this. I enjoyed reading it.

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    aok…I’ll get positive on yogi. How is this: maybe this year I can use the words “yogi, help and defense” all in the same sentence without it being unbridled fiction. Of course, if you think I’m critical of yogi, think about CTC’s comments about leadership a few weeks ago. Ouch. Hey, Enjoy! Its all in good fun.

  • TomJameson

    Let me be clear … I think you are very insightful most of the time. I think you know a heck of a lot more about basketball than I do and I enjoy reading your posts. I just find you have this lean about Yogi and it doesn’t let up. I know you are firm in your beliefs, not trying to change that, but most think you are daft. LOL JK 4putts!

    But I will say that RJ will not give Yogi a run at all, and I’m a big fan of RJ. Yogi will be setting a lot of records at IU this year, records that have been set by some of the best. Your biggest gripe is about his defense (or lack of), but (my) reality is that he is a very good defender, as good as 6′ will allow anyway.

    The games played will tell the story. I hope I’m right and you’re wrong. LOL

  • marcusgresham

    I’m not certain it is rational. Only two teams (Northwestern St., which averaged 84 a game as a team, and Georgia St.) had two guys average over 17 a game last season–neither team had a third player average in double figures.

    Even the 1990 Loyola Marymount team, which put up 125 a game, only had 4 double-figure scorers and one of those four was below 15.

  • marcusgresham

    That’s interesting. Some are going to argue with you that IU just plays crappy defense (and that is part of the problem,) but this also contributes.
    Conversely, think of how much more efficient the IU offense begins to look if the defense is playing more efficiently by getting steals of their own, rebounding better, and stopping guys from going though the lane like Chris Farley through a buffet line.


    Not boycotting the games, but you can still count me as part of the group that is still PO’d about the whole Emmitt thing. Please note that the seal on the can of worms is still unbroken. lol


    Glad he is longer on that thought pattern. I feel for almost anyone being told they are really that person……well except for that person.


    I disagree on more than one thing with you when it comes to Yogi, but you are right when it comes to the leadership point. When you have been around as long as he has and have played as many minutes as he has it should be incumbent upon you to become at least one of the leaders if not “the” leader of the team. I found it interesting that in the piece with Victor where he was asked some questions about our team, one of the few things that he talked about where he specially mentioned someone by name was when he talked about leadership and directly connected Yogi’s name with it.


    The only way Alkins isn’t a one and done is if he has a serious injury. Even with that if he decided to go anyway I’d have to say that there would be some team out there that would still take a chance on him and in the first round at that.

    If the NBA draft was held tomorrow Simmons would probably be drafted ahead of Troy. That being said if Troy has the kind of year that we are expecting him to have and that he is capable of having, I could see him being drafted ahead of Simmons simply because he has a bigger body of work to look at, aka a more proven commodity. ” Troy isn’t the at the top of the list of people when it comes to putting in the extra work” Tom Crean. Of course Crean also said that he picks stuff up a lot quicker than anyone else on the team too, but that isn’t really a legit excuse for not putting in the kind of work that would for sure get him drafted ahead of Simmons. Here’s to hoping that he has the kind of season that makes the doing the drafting go, “Simmons over Williams, no way we’re taking him over Williams”


    Upvoted if for no other reason the Chris Farley line, and yes our defense WAS that bad.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Hey Mike! Love your reply. Maybe or maybe not on Alkins in my mind. I hope we get him. Wasn’t this from days ago? Someone my age (55) can sometimes forget these comments from days ago! Nice to hear from you and if you would of waited much longer the Cubs would of won the World Series.


    I’ve been on here pretty much since the beginning and have enjoyed reading, and mostly agreed with, your comments. IMHO this comment is one of the best that I’ve read since the beginning and not just because I couldn’t agree more with every point. It lays out several excellent/common sense points backed up by proven facts and reinforced by the numbers you researched. By the way, thank you very much for those.

    When it comes to defense I have to wonder if Crean’s thinking isn’t, hey I went to the final four with a team ranked 119th defensively and all I have to do is have a better team offensively than that team and it doesn’t really matter how good we are when it comes to defense. That kind of thinking couldn’t be more wrong in my opinion and he has an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove otherwise, but seemingly refuses to do whatever it takes to change that aspect. A lot of people thinking that we are automatically going to be a top 50 (or better) team defensively because most of the top players will be a year older and we will have TB in the middle is wrong as well. Will we be better, I sure as hell hope so cause it couldn’t get much worse, but, with as you say, a coach that seemingly is unable to put a, let’s be generous and say “good” defensive team on the floor, those factors in no way guarantee a team proficient in playing defense.

    When it comes to our team defense this coming season, obtaining a ranking of top 25, or even anything close to it would be nothing short of miraculous and would just about have to be some kind of record when it comes to how much a team has improved from one season to the next. It would also lead me to believe that TC surely has some mysterious, publicly unknown defensive guru, whispering into his ear when it comes to defense. Another defensive stat from last year that really stands out to me is that our opponents shot over 50% for the season on 2pt attempts. That is for sure a stat that has to change and not by just a little bit. Again, just because we will have TB in the middle is not going to automatically lower that stat to where it has to be. Asking a freshman, ANY freshman to take it upon themselves to get that stat where it needs to be is, a lot of the time, going to lead to situations we need to stay away from. I always told my teams that a lot of the easiest, aka highest percentage, baskets they will get will come from playing good defense and forcing the other team into a turnover that results in a fast break for their team.

    When a team shoots well below what they should from the line; e.g. 65% when YF & JBJ are excepted, the misses almost become like a turnover, especially when the foul is committed by a replaceable player or is only the first or second foul by a large contributor late into the second half. These, coupled with the excellent points that you lay out shows real quickly why this is no small problem.


    Got behind on my ITH duties. And just for the record 55 isn’t old, but then again my definition of old just continues to go up. lol Can remember thinking that being in your 30’s was over the hill. If only I could…………

  • Outoftheloop

    Don’t look so far afield. Last year IU had 3 with Yogi 16.3, James 15.7, and Troy 13.0. All 3 are back and should be improved. Robert was 8.9 and also will be improved. so there are 4 players who should average double figures. Thomas will get all of the minutes that Holt and Hanner got plus more, limited only by foul trouble. Neither Hanner nor Holt were big scorers, but combined they averaged 10.1. So there is a very rational argument for 5 double figure scorers, as I stated!

  • SilentBob

    Thanks for the kind words Mike, and I agree that simply adding Thomas and a year of experience won’t get us where we need to be. Yet at the same time I still have to think Thomas’ addition will be huge, because it isn’t like he is just a better player than Hanner. If Thomas can stay healthy he will simply be in the floor wayyy more than Hanner. I think some people forget Hanner didn’t really play once conference play roled around. He missed 7 games, and the games he was available for he only averaged 15.8 minutes. That’s a grand total of only 174 conference minutes. If Thomas can average as many conference minutes as Vonleh (29.6) he will total 534 minutes. That’s a little over 3 times as many court minutes.

    Despite our opponets having the fourth most field goal attempts, as a team we rejected the second fewest shots. Sure block shots aren’t everything, but you’d still like to have them. If for nothing other than sheer intimidation and momentum boost. Hanner only totaled 9 block shots in conference. Fun fact: our leading total shot blocker in conference play was Collin Hartman at 13.

    We also at the fifth fewest defensive rebounds of any team in conference. Granted our lack of size and terrible oponnet field goal percentage almost makes that look impressive, giving up second chance points is still a huge momentum killer. Again picking on Hanner, he only produced 23 defensive boards and 36 total boards in conference play last year. Having Thomas, Troy, and James on the floor together could make us one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country.

    It was nice to hear Crean mention some of the things I mentioned in these last two comments today in his interview. Add to that, we got to hear Yogi say “defense wins championships.” Hopefully it’s not talk. Because if we can become a lot more efficient, rebound the ball, and give our guards confidence in the Big behind them while also getting better themselves we could be a scary good team. This is the main reason I’ve said all offseason we may have the highest ceiling in the country. Yet, of the teams being ranked in the top 25, we also have the lowest starting floor. Because this is a pretty tall order

  • SilentBob

    Yes I would have to say efficient offense and sound defense to an extent are positively correlated.