IU officially welcomes Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson

Indiana announced the addition of its newest backcourt piece, Xavier Johnson, on Monday.

IU coach Mike Woodson’s statement on the 6-foot-3 guard outlined what he expects from a player who averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 assists per game for Pittsburgh as a junior.

“Xavier will be an important addition to our team and should have an immediate impact,” Woodson said. “He is a high-intensity player who brings tremendous energy on both ends of the floor. He has a presence about himself that translates into his ability to provide leadership in a key role.

“He especially flourishes in transition, where he can create for himself and his teammates.”

The addition of Johnson — once a Nebraska commit recruited by now-IU assistant Kenya Hunter — helps ease the departure of sophomore guard Armaan Franklin, who will transfer to Virginia.

Franklin was the Hoosiers’ most consistent scoring guard in 2020-21, averaging 11.4 points per game and hitting 42.9% of his 3-pointers. Johnson, who is a career 33.6% shooter from deep, is a different player, but his attacking style should add an edge to the Hoosiers’ backcourt.

“I was hoping no one left, you know? Armaan Franklin made the decision he wanted to leave,” Woodson said recently. “So we just gotta push on. We’re heavy in the portal. We were able to plug in Xavier Johnson from Pitt, which I think is an excellent pickup for our ball club. We’re still in the portal trying to make things happen for our team. It’s ongoing work.”

Woodson has two open scholarships in which to work, which doesn’t include senior center Joey Brunk, who is eligible to return in ’21-22 but will not count toward IU’s roster limit. Because Johnson can play point guard, Woodson wouldn’t mind adding another player off the ball.

“We got some holes to plug,” Woodson said. “The pickup of Xavier Johnson was huge because we needed some point guard play. Losing Franklin, I’m going to have to look in that area in terms of a scoring two and maybe some help at the three, four spots. Mainly three, because I like (Race) Thompson in the four-spot where he is. We’ve got big fella (Trayce Jackson-Davis) in the hole.

“We gotta start plugging in some pieces we’re a little weak at, that’s the two, three spots.”

Woodson has talked about playing a more open offensive style, which can fit a driver and distributor like Johnson. Rob Phinisee, a junior, and Khristian Lander, a freshman, also return at the point guard spot.

“Everybody talks they want to play uptempo, I’m that way, too,” Woodson said. “I want to bring an NBA-style game somewhat to our ball club, depending on how fast they can pick things up. I don’t know a lot of things until I assemble a team and start working with them.

“I do want to play faster and get quick strikes in the offense, where we don’t have to settle and come down and face a lot of zones and tough man-to-man defenses.”


  1. I applaud the moves Woody is making and notice he uses terminology typically associated with the NBA, such as “our ball club” and “plug in.” Obviously, Woody brings an NBA perspective to his new job and is very honest. I’m guessing he feels comfortable saying the same things, in the same way, to his players that he says to the media. For example, I love it when he announces, “We gotta start plugging in some pieces we’re a little weak at, that’s the two, three spots.” He doesn’t seem the least bit concerned how his current players at the two or three spot feel about that statement. I’m guessing his thinking is, “hey guys, if you don’t like hearing that, then get better.” Like I said in a previous post, IU BB under Woody will not be the program for snowflakes.

  2. Glass’s “Athlete’s Bill of Rights” shackled Archie Miller to “snowflakes” and “hot dogs”…We may have some of those still on the team.

    Woodson has a triple advantage Archie did not have when he took the job. (a) Archie had no relaxed transfer rules to quickly fill “holes” (e.g. premature departure of Romeo and abrupt transfer of Smith)…and (b) a better roster to be shackled in terms of the protection afforded by IU’s Athlete’s Bill of Rights…and (c) the ability to more successfully cajole poor performers or “bad fits” off a roster because relaxed transfer rules may offer a deception of sorts to those transferring out …convincing themselves that their talent will be appreciated elsewhere with no need to sit out a year.

    Bottom Line: None of those new advantages have little to do with being a more demanding coach or having a tougher personality . Woodson arrives with a far better roster (even with the loss of Franklin, there is an All-American center in place) ….faster ability to react to roster holes …and an environment that fosters cajoling poor performers off a roster.

    1. Romeo’s departure wasn’t “premature”, and Smith’s wasn’t “abrupt”. Both could be seen coming well before they became official.

  3. Last time I checked IU men’s basketball for 2021-2022 season = 0 wins. Personally, staff is already better with Fife included as assistant.

  4. CBS Sports ranks college basketball’s best committed transfers.

    247Sports’ take: “He’s big, he’s athletic, he can get to the rim and he is a very capable setup man and defender,” 247Sports’ Eric Bossi wrote of Johnson. “Guards who can get into the paint off the dribble when all else breaks down and they are even more valuable when they can keep opposing guards from doing the same thing. The NBA experience and spacing concepts that new Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson is going to bring the table will really benefit Johnson and for that reason a big year could be coming.”

    CBS Sports: “Indiana is getting a player who has averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game during 81 career starts at an ACC school.”
    Looking forward to the best season in a while.

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