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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Indiana basketball’s Xavier Johnson returns to practice, questionable vs. Wisconsin

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Indiana men’s basketball sixth-year senior point guard Xavier Johnson has missed the last six games with a left arm injury after a hard fall Jan. 30 against Iowa. 

Johnson sported a black brace around his left arm in the weeks thereafter and was declared out indefinitely by Indiana head coach Mike Woodson on Feb. 6 — but the veteran starter has grown a step closer towards returning to action. 

“He did some things yesterday on the floor,” Woodson said Monday via Zoom. “Not a lot of contact. All I'm doing is I'll go down today and talk to [athletic trainer] Tim [Garl], just see where he is.” 

Johnson, who played in 11 games last season before suffering a season-ending foot injury, has been in and out of the Hoosiers’ lineup this year. 

A broken foot sustained Nov. 26 against Harvard University forced Johnson to miss seven games. He played in eight games upon returning, during which he scored double-digit points only twice while Indiana trudged to a 3-5 record. 

Since Johnson’s arm injury, the Hoosiers have gone just 1-5, slipping to 14-13 overall and 6-10 in Big Ten play. Woodson has attributed some of Indiana’s struggles this season to Johnson’s absence. 

“It's hard to gauge our season based on the fact we haven't had Xavier,” Woodson said. “I'm not putting it all on that, but Xavier was a big piece to the puzzle in terms of leadership and being able to run our team as a senior point guard. We put so much pressure on Gabe Cupps that that's not fair to him even though he's played well in spurts for us.” 

Across 14 games, Johnson is averaging 8.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 40.7% from the field and 34.8% from 3-point range. Indiana is 8-6 when Johnson plays and 6-7 when he doesn’t. 

Woodson is adamant the Hoosiers are a much-improved team when Johnson is on the court — and the Woodbridge, Virginia, native is doing everything in his power to play and show exactly that as his college career reaches its final four regular season contests.

“I know he wants to play in the worst way,” Woodson said. “Time is kind of running out on him. I feel for him in that regard. But I'm just going to follow his lead. I don't like playing players when they don't practice and don't have some kind of contact. So, I don't know.” 

Indiana’s athletic training staff initially gave Johnson a six-to-seven-week timeline for recovery. Tuesday marks exactly four weeks. 

Whether Johnson suits up for the Hoosiers when they face Wisconsin at 7 p.m. Tuesday inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall remains unknown — even for Woodson. 

“I'll know more today and see where he is in terms of him wanting to play,” Woodson said. “So, we'll see today and see how he felt after running around a little bit yesterday without the contact and go from there. That's all we can do.” 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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