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Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson commits to Indiana

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Backcourt help is on the way for Mike Woodson and company

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at N.C. State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Woodson’s plan to shore up Indiana’s backcourt gained traction on Wednesday with a transfer commitment from former Pitt point guard Xavier Johnson.

In Johnson, the Hoosiers are getting one of the best distributors in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. The 6-foot-3 Virginia native ranked second in the ACC with 5.7 assists per game, while his assist rate of 42.4% led all players among power six programs.

Johnson, who left Pitt’s program on Feb. 24, also averaged 14.2 points per game while shooting 50% from inside the arc and 32% from 3-point range this past season. He’s two years removed from setting Pitt program records for scoring (15.5 ppg), double-figure games (28), games with 15 or more points (17), 20-point games (nine), free throws made (157), free throw attempts (209) and field goal attempts (383). That season, he earned ACC All-Freshman honors alongside Duke’s Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones, and North Carolina’s Coby White.

Johnson, one of the top available guards in the NCAA Transfer Portal, chose IU over interest from Baylor, Houston and St. Joseph’s.

Beyond his ability to facilitate, Johnson is at his best when he’s attacking the rim. For Johnson, 42.6% of his attempts last season came at the rim. He made 56.2% of those, according to hoop-math.com.

With that kind of aggressive skill set, Johnson is adept at drawing fouls. His free throw rate (47.3%) last season was higher than any IU guard. For context, IU had only one guard (Al Durham, 46%) post a free throw rate above 27%.

And while he’s only a 33% career 3-point shooter, he did shoot 78% from the line last season, suggesting that there may be some long-range potential that a new coaching staff may be able to unlock. Johnson could also stand to improve his ball security. He averaged 3.2 errors per game last season, but did manage to shave his turnover rate from 24.7% as a sophomore to 23% as a junior.

Johnson’s arrival adds intrigue to an Indiana backcourt that earlier this week learned that rising sophomore Khristian Lander will return next season. IU is still awaiting word on shooting guard Armaan Franklin, who entered the portal not long after former coach Archie Miller was fired last month.