BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Indiana has been slipping lately, and playing without senior point guard Xavier Johnson has a lot to do with it. He broke his foot early in the Kansas game on December 17 and required surgery. He’s been out for four weeks now, but his rehab is going well, and he said he hopes to be back on the ground sometime in the Big Ten season.
Johnson guest-starred on the Hoosier Roundtable podcast with HoosiersNow.com editor and host Tom Brew, and he spoke all about the injury and his recovery, as well as what’s going on with the Hoosiers. His 16-minute exclusive interview was the first he’s done since his injury.
“I’m fine. I’m actually feeling a lot better and have a bit of mobility,” Johnson said. “I’m starting to work on it a bit and going back to the doctor on Monday to see my foot. Hopefully I’ll hear something good my x-rays look good too so i’m heading in the right direction.
“We’ve probably got a month (without me) left and I think Race (Thompson, who’s out with a knee injury) is feeling better and will be back soon. He’s feeling better. We just have to get the other guys. They’re playing really well in training and now they just have to do it in the games.”
Johnson has been pressed for a timeline for a return, but he’s keeping that to himself and the team’s medical staff.
“I just let it happen. I want it to be a surprise. I’ll come back when I’m ready,” he said. I asked him if we would see him at home against Michigan before the regular season finale on March 5th? “Oh, of course,” he said.
The Hoosiers are 10-6 overall and only 1-4 in the Big Ten. They play in Wisconsin at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, and Johnson is confident Indiana will make it.
“We’re feeling good and we can’t come down. We just have to keep working and grinding it out. We will get over the hump.”
Johnson said he’s never broken “a big bone” before, and his only experience was a broken finger, something most basketball players go through during their careers. He knew something was amiss as soon as he was in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
“When the play happened, I immediately grabbed my foot. I got up and tried to get up, but I fell down again,” Johnson said. “I was in so much pain in my foot and I knew something was wrong.
“I’ve never broken a big bone and been outside for a while. I broke a finger once and that was it, so I knew the feeling of a broken bone beforehand. I cried because I knew something was wrong.”
Surgery was required to ensure the fracture had healed properly and would not be a problem in the future.
“I wanted to go through with it because I feel like it’s important for my career,” he said of the decision to have his right foot operated. “I’m going to be playing after college, so I think fixing the issue is important. It’s just a precaution for my career because I feel like I can go far with it.”
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Since his operation at the end of December he has received a lot of treatment and rehabilitation. He stayed in Bloomington over the holidays, and his Virginia-based family came to Indiana to be with him. They all had a Christmas dinner with Indiana coach Mike Woodson and his family.
He’s getting there in his recovery and so far all signs are positive.
“I feel really good about the progress and just being able to walk again. I’ve never felt this before. It’s been a minute since I walked on my right foot. Now that I can and can use it again, it feels good. I’m starting to lift weights and do pool workouts again. I can’t wait to come back.”
It was difficult watching his teammates fight from the bench, he said
“It drives me crazy because I really love my teammates,” he said. “We’re going through a little struggle and just hit a wall but Coach Woodson will get us through it. He’s a great coach. It’s different (with starters out there) but we have to get over it.
“It’s all fixable. We watched a lot of movies and Coach asked us what we were thinking and what we were doing to get better. That will help the solution.” We just have to come together and honestly trust each other. It will happen over time, and we just got over the mountain.”
Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino had to carry the burden in Johnson’s absence. They were great early on, often playing together in backfield and helping the Hoosiers to a 7-0 record and a No. 10 national ranking. The streak included a big away win at Xavier, currently ranked 12th in the country, and a home win over North Carolina, the defending national runner-up who was No. 1 last season
But since that Nov. 30 game, Hood-Schifino and Johnson have only played 6 minutes and 9 seconds together. The freshman missed three games with a back injury and then returned to the Kansas game, where Johnson was injured and has not been able to play since.
Hood-Schifino played well, apart from some occasional inconsistencies among the newcomers.
“Jalen was good and I’m very proud of him,” said Johnson, who has 1,674 career points over his three years in Pittsburgh and his year plus in Indiana. “He hit a small wall, but it’s a small wall. He comes in as a rookie and produces a lot and that’s not easy as a rookie. It comes from his work because he works really hard.”
“We need that from him. He’s got a lot of mental play and that’s good to be the point guard because you’re a leader on this team and you have the ball in your hands most of the time.
The second half of the Hoosier Roundtable podcast featured a breakdown of the Indiana women’s basketball team. The Hoosiers, who are 15-1 and No. 6 in the country, beat No. 9 in Maryland Thursday night, and we have a full breakdown of the game with HoosiersNow.com reporter and video director Haley Jordan.
Watch the full Hoosier Roundtable here
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