Johnson sets his eyes on the prize

Robert Johnson leaves Wednesday for a business trip to San Antonio.

By the time he returns to Indiana in a few short days, the former IU guard hopes to make a sizable deposit in his personal bank account.

That’s because, for the first time in his career, Johnson is playing for money.

Johnson is one of four players representing the Big Ten at this weekend’s 3X3U National Championship, a new event that pits 32 four-man teams consisting of seniors from every Division I conference against each other in a three-day, 3-on-3 tournament.

The kicker? There’s some serious cash on the line.

“It’s definitely different, but I’m definitely excited about it,” Johnson said. “It’s probably one of the better (aspects) of the whole thing, to be honest.”

Since he and the other 127 players invited to participate have exhausted their NCAA eligibility, earning money through basketball is now an option for Johnson — and he hopes this won’t be the last time.

Teams will compete for a $100,000 prize pool from Friday through Sunday, earning money along the way.

Each win in pool play, along with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds net the four-man squads $1,000. The team that wins the championship earns $50,000.

“I think it’s fun,” Johnson said, “especially when you can play with that amount of space and the floor is that open. I think it allows for some fun basketball.”

The Big Ten will be relying on a guard-heavy squad consisting of Johnson, Purdue’s Vincent Edwards, Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate and Minnesota’s Nate Mason to get there. Media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, The Athletic, USA Today, NBC Sports and The Ringer helped select players for each conference team.

To prepare for halfcourt basketball, Johnson has been playing 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 pickup games in Bloomington to get used to the spacing. Once he’s in Texas, Johnson says the Big Ten team will get some practice time together to devise their tactical approach to playing together.

All four have become familiar with one another through years of competition, both at the Big Ten and and AAU levels. Figuring out how to play with each other will be Step 1 in San Antonio.

“That’s what I’m interested to see,” Johnson said, “if we’re gonna have a strategy as far as certain actions we want to run or what have you. That’s something I’m looking forward to seeing.”

Johnson, who finished his IU career with 1,413 career points, earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention recognition after averaging 14.0 points per game.

He shot 37 percent from 3-point range as a senior, finding his stride during conference play. His 40 percent 3-point shooting mark in league games ranked 12th among Big Ten shooters.

This week’s trip to San Antonio is the beginning of what Johnson hopes is a long and fruitful post-IU playing career.

After he returns to Indiana, Johnson anticipates signing with an agent, devising a training regime and setting his sights on professional opportunities.

“I’m just trying to take it one step at a time and just be ready,” Johnson said. “The main thing for me is just be ready for any opportunities that I get. That’s the whole thing for me. I don’t know how many I’m gonna get. I couldn’t tell you what type of opportunities I’m gonna get, but I want to make sure that I work to get ready for them.”

Staying active on the floor, even in a different format, is part of Johnson’s process for getting there.

“I think it should be fun,” he said.

4 comments

  1. This story makes getting drunk at an off-campus party, or getting caught with a bottle of Vodka while sitting in a teammate’s car look insignificant. MSU Basketball is starting to look like Baylor Football, and if the allegations about the attempt to keep this young women from reporting the rape are true, MSU IS in big time trouble! Can Izzo survive this?

    1. Too bad the timing didn’t work out. If this is all true Izzo sounds like he would have been a lock for the Louisville job.

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