That’s A Wrap: Xavier Johnson

  • 04/29/2024 8:25 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2023-24 Indiana Hoosiers. Today, our player recaps conclude with a look at Xavier Johnson.

Johnson (20 games): 7.6 points, 2.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 42.5 FG% in 25.6 minutes per game.

Previously: Gabe Cupps, Mackenzie Mgbako, Malik Reneau, Kel’el Ware, Kaleb Banks, CJ Gunn, Payton Sparks, Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal, Anthony Walker

After his 2022-23 season was cut short due to a foot injury suffered in an IU loss at Kansas on Dec. 17, 2022, Xavier Johnson was granted an additional season of eligibility last May.

It was welcome news for an IU program that had just lost Jalen Hood-Schifino to the NBA and needed a point guard to solidify the rotation for the 2023-24 campaign.

Johnson, one of the catalysts in IU’s late-season run back in Mike Woodson’s first season, would again start at point guard, with freshman Gabe Cupps serving as his backup.

In his sixth and final season, Johnson had 14 points and four rebounds in a season-opening 69-63 win against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 7. He followed that up with 19 points, five assists and three rebounds in a 72-64 win against Army on Nov. 12. Johnson was also excellent in a win against Louisville at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 20, pouring in 19 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds.

But injuries and inconsistent play quickly derailed Johnson’s season.

In a 89-76 win against Harvard at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Johnson left the game with what was later revealed to be a crack in his foot. That injury forced him to miss the next seven games, including losses to Auburn in Atlanta and Kansas at Assembly Hall.

Johnson returned on Jan. 3 against Nebraska in Lincoln, but struggled and went scoreless in 15 minutes in a blowout loss to the Cornhuskers. He quickly rebounded and played arguably his best game of the season against Ohio State on Jan. 6, finishing with 18 points in 33 minutes in a 71-65 win.

Inconsistent play and an ejection moved him out of the starting lineup just a few games later. In a nine-point loss at Rutgers on Jan. 9, Johnson was ejection for hitting Antwone Woolfolk below the belt. He returned to the starting lineup against Illinois on Jan. 27 in Champaign but was assessed a technical foul just before halftime for throwing a ball at Coleman Hawkins.

The injury bug hit Johnson in IU’s next game. He hit the floor hard on a drive to the basket against Iowa and hurt his arm, forcing him to miss the next six games.

Johnson played in each of IU’s final six games and racked up four or more assists in five of those contests. The Hoosiers went 5-1 in that stretch with Johnson back in the fold.

Overall, Johnson’s numbers took a massive dive from his first two seasons in Bloomington. His offensive rating of 93.6 was easily the lowest of his three seasons in the cream and crimson. He also shot just 68.8 percent from the free throw line and had a higher turnover rate (25.6) than assist rate (19.2).

Still, it was clear to see IU was at its best when it had Johnson on the floor playing at a high level. His ball pressure defensively coupled with his ability to get downhill and excel in transition were missing from the IU backcourt when he wasn’t on the floor.

Bottom line: Johnson was a polarizing player during his three seasons in Bloomington and had plenty of highs and lows as a Hoosier. He’ll be fondly remembered for his incredible play in the 2022 Big Ten tournament that helped the program reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. Unfortunately, injuries in his last two seasons severely limited his ability to reach his ceiling as a player.

Quotable: “When you put four years — he’s been what, five, six years in college, a long time playing this sport, and now you wind down and come to the end of your college career. I couldn’t be more proud and more happy for X because X has gone through a lot, man. From the time I got him, I coached him hard. I was tough on X, man. X wanted to give you all he could give you and the injuries just set in and he just wasn’t able to be on the floor a lot.” – Mike Woodson on Johnson in advance of IU’s senior day matchup against Michigan State.

Filed to: