That’s A Wrap: Robert Johnson

  • 04/04/2016 10:41 am in

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

Previously: OG AnunobyJuwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant, Harrison Niego, James Blackmon Jr.

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  • marcusgresham

    Not even mentioning the fact that he, after starting pretty much his entire freshman season, he came off the bench a lot of this one with no visible problems. Sometimes they need Bryant to get everyone up; sometimes they need Johnson to calm everyone down.

  • inLinE6

    This team has to rely so much on Johnson next season. Hope he recovers soon enough to work out with the team in the summer.

  • SCHoosier

    Good and fair assessment of Rob’s contribution and improvement. One of the things I hate most about his injury is that it will cost him a full off season of skill development. Given the leap he made between the Frosh and soph seasons Rob was poised to make another jump forward for his junior year. Improving his handle and FT shooting are the keys to him playing the point on a regular basis. Of course I think Mr. Newkirk will have something to say about that (I hope) Get well Rob..some great b-ball ahead of you.

  • BL

    Love to know the details of his surgery and the projected recovery timetable established by his surgeon. Guess all we can do is hope for the best until the program releases something more definitive.

    All three returning upperclassmen guards will be coming off injuries. If all three can return truly healthy, we will have one of the deepest and best backcourts in the country, especially when you sprinkle in a couple pretty good looking freshman.

    Getting really excited about next season. I mean TB, OG and JM with a year of experience and another offseason to develop. Feeling more and more certain DD is going to be special as well, and I really hope we sign McFly.

    Tough waiting around for TW and TB to make their decisions regarding pro ball.

  • RDD#76

    If healthy with Newkirk you have 3 solid guards you could rotate to keep fresh throughout game plus sprinkle in Jones plus the teams workout program they can take over last 10 minutes of games like last year when they looked like they were a lot less tired than opponents, plus depth on frontline really looking forward to next season already! Really could have deep team next year.

  • Did you hear Charles Barkley on Mike & Mike this morning?.. He did a strong pitch for guys staying in school.. In fact he came out saying the NBA, the Players Assoc. and the NCAA should establish that a kid must stay in school two years as a minimum. He said the NBA product today is really bad except for maybe five or six teams. He sais it is a result of just too many kids coming out before they are ready.. and it’s ruining the game. He said they all get talked into it by an agent who naturally wants to make money on them and they are blown up in their own minds thinking they can make it.. and long term, they just don’t. And once they are there their development stagnates.. All things, I agree wholeheartedly with.

  • BL

    Didn’t hear the Mike & Mike discussion but I totally agree. Fully understand kids leaving early under the current system but a two or even three year minimum college stay makes sense to me. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the NCAA and NBA can’t get this right. Both brands would improve significantly by having a better product on the floor and it would be the best thing for the kids.

  • cbags05

    That video replay against Purdue is great.

  • Seriously, right? I remember that defensive possession specifically, and being so damned impressed with RJ’s play. Watching that, I’m really, really bummed that he couldn’t play against UNC. I know, I know, that horse is dead, stop beating it, but man, it’s hard not to imagine the game being different with a health RJ running around the court creating havoc like that.

  • There’s this mistaken notion that kids have a “right” to play in the NBA, and that such rules limit that right to go out and make a living. That’s false, of course: nobody has a “right” to play in the NBA, while the NBA has every right to establish their own rules (the NCAA is a bit murkier since many member schools are state institutions).

    If the NBA decides that kids need some time to mature and develop, then all they need to do is stop drafting them. The NCAA really doesn’t need to do anything. Now, I know that the players’ union has some say in these issues, but that’s between the union and the NBA. Again, the NCAA should have nothing to do with it.

  • Honestly, I can’t remember an off season in quite some time that’s so full of questions perfectly designed to drive a Hoosier fan insane. Next season could be so incredible if… and if… and if…

  • Crazy question: could RJ get a medical redshirt next year if his recovery goes more slowly than expected?

  • BL

    I agree that the NBA could fix the system by for example, unilaterally implementing the MLB limitations on drafting college students. However, the NCAA has vested interests (what’s best for their student-athletes and their brand) and therefore, they should be driving for reasonable change.

  • BL

    If he misses 2/3rds of the season?

  • Is that the rule? Not up on it (I know, could google it, but my brain is fried from an incredibly long day so I’m, you know, lazy). 🙂

  • I don’t disagree with you, but I can see the NBA acting far more quickly than the NCAA. I trust a bunch of team owners protecting their financial interests much more than I do a bunch of bureaucrats.

  • BL

    I googled it.

  • LOL. Okay, when I recover my brain, I’ll do the same.

  • And, of course, don’t want that to happen. Just thinking about what’s best for the kid–want to see him play next season, obviously, but really hate the idea of any kid rushing things in order to get back on the court.

  • SilentBob

    I don’t think that for guys like Karl Townes. But these freshmen getting picked outside the top 10 to 15 definitely.

  • marcusgresham

    What truly can the NCAA do? They can’t make a kid stay in school. The rule is fully up to the NBA–the NCAA just has to live with whatever the decision is.

  • cbags05

    Well. Look who he was guarding in that purdue posession. Look who he would have been guarding against unc. Different shooters.

  • Well, I was thinking the NCAA has some influence, but now that you ask, I’m really not sure. They have rules about declaring for the draft and such, but of course that just limits their ability to stay in school. It doesn’t impact their ability to leave. That’s similar to limiting a kid’s ability to transfer between NCAA schools.

  • The UNC perimeter shooters weren’t great shooters though.

  • BL

    Ultimately, I guess it’s an NBA decision but I’d be disappointed if the NCAA didn’t regularly meet with the NBA commissioner and push for change. Frankly, it would be foolish for the NCAA or NBA to act unilaterally. I mean in that case, what would prevent the NCAA from working with the major college conferences in designing a uniform scholarship agreement where the student-athlete must compensate the school if they depart for the NBA early?

  • BL

    Yeah baby! Still tied with UNC and Duke with five banners. We get #6 next year.

  • Missing Moye

    BL is correct with regards to a medical redshirt. But I don’t know of any reason why he wouldn’t eligible to take a standard redshirt and sit out the year.

  • BL

    Watching NCAA postgame. Just showed TB’s wink on the FT line against Kentucky. All timer and priceless!

  • BL

    Appears he could do that as well as long as the doc’s signed off on his inability to play next year.

  • Missing Moye

    To my understanding, a redshirt can be used for virtually any reason, medical or not, at any point in someone’s college career assuming they have not already used one. I seem to recall the kids at Utah under Majerus taking redshirts after their sophomore and junior seasons to go overseas and do mission work. It’s pretty rare that a redshirt isn’t used during someone’s freshman year, but it does happen.

  • cbags05

    They were pretty good against us! But man i wish we could have been healthy too. Nothing like losing in a blowout to end the season and having a bunch of what-if’s.