‘I just told them be ready to work’: Xavier Johnson talks commitment to Indiana

  • 04/07/2021 8:44 pm in

Xavier Johnson doesn’t have any big plans Wednesday night to celebrate his commitment to Indiana.

“I’ll probably play a little Call of Duty Warzone,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Johnson is back in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the city where he grew up. Earlier in the day, he worked out on the court. He also had the air conditioning in his car fixed to provide some relief to the spring heat. “I was over there sweating,” Johnson said.

Then at 5 p.m., the former Pittsburgh guard announced on social media that he will be transferring to Indiana. He still has two years of eligibility remaining.

“The main thing about my decision was development and going to the program where I believe I can make the biggest impact,” Johnson by phone Wednesday night. “And I believe it was Indiana.”

The 6-foot 3-inch guard spent three seasons at Pittsburgh and is a career 33 percent 3-point shooter. His best year from behind the arc came in his freshman season when he hit 35 percent.

Last season, Johnson led Pittsburgh in both assists per game (5.7) and steals per game (1.3). He was also third on the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game, including a 32-point outburst against Virginia Tech.

In late February, Johnson announced that he was entering the transfer portal. A couple of days ago, Johnson released a top four schools of Indiana, Baylor, Houston and St. Joseph’s. What helped Indiana, though, was Johnson’s preexisting relationship with IU assistant coach Kenya Hunter, who was retained on the IU staff last week after Archie Miller’s firing.

In high school, Johnson signed his National Letter of Intent with Nebraska where his lead recruiter was Hunter. But before Johnson got on campus, Hunter took an assistant coaching position at UConn. As a result, Johnson withdrew his National Letter of Intent and opted to sign with Pittsburgh. Now, Johnson and Hunter will be reunited at Indiana.

“He (Hunter) always thought it was the right spot for me to be in,” Johnson said. “They’re in need of a guard who can get in the paint and get guys open. I think I can be a big asset for them next year.”

Johnson also spoke with head coach Mike Woodson. Johnson believes he can fit in with Woodson’s four out/one out offensive system. In their conversations, Johnson was impressed with Woodson’s demeanor.

“He’s a really down-to-earth guy that cares about you on the court and off of the court as well,” Johnson said. “He’s both ways on and off of the court. You have to go to class and do all the other things right.”

Johnson said he’s been in contact with some of his new teammates. He’s planning on arriving in Bloomington in May.

“I just can’t wait to get to Indiana and meet them face to face,” Johnson said “…I just told them be ready to work. The main thing I’m coming to do is win.”

In his highlight tapes, Johnson displays an elite quickness with the ability to create off the bounce and score transition. Over the last couple of seasons, Indiana hasn’t had someone to be able to consistently create for others. In his own words, though, Johnson describes his game like this:

“I got a big heart that cares about the game,” he said. “I always give my all. That’s what I expect Indiana to think of me. Always giving my all.”

Right now, he’s been working out every day in Virginia with his trainer. Among his workout group is former Maryland star point guard Anthony Cowan, but Johnson said he hasn’t received any advice about playing in the Big Ten yet.

Another aspect in which Johnson can help the Hoosiers is shooting, one he said he’s been especially focused on during his recent workouts. The Hoosiers have struggled the past few seasons to consistently shoot from the outside. Johnson, who hit five threes in a single game last season, has the potential to be a high-volume scorer.

“I’m constantly shooting the ball,” Johnson said. “I believe I’m shooting the ball way better than I’ve had before. I think I can continue to have confidence and bring it out next year.”

With the return of Parker Stewart and Khristian Lander, Woodson has a variety of backcourt options at his disposal. Johnson, who’s played three seasons of college basketball, adds another veteran presence along with senior with Rob Phinisee. In total, the addition of Johnson has the potential to fix some of Indiana’s most pressing issues of shooting and play-making.

While he’ll have to adjust to a new campus soon, one aspect of moving to Bloomington from Pittsburgh that Johnson isn’t going to worry about, he says, is adjusting from the frigid temperatures of Pittsburgh.

“There’s going to be no difference,” Johnson said with a laugh.

But for the rest of Wednesday night, to celebrate it all, he’ll probably play some Call of Duty on his PlayStation 4.

(Photo credit: Pittsburgh Athletics)

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