Xavier Johnson quashes transfer rumors


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Sophomore guard Xavier Johnson (1) announced he plans to continue playing for Pitt for his junior season.

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

Xavier Johnson isn’t going anywhere.

The Pitt sophomore guard quashed any transfer rumors with a Tweet Sunday night that expressed his desire to stick with the program moving forward while also telling his followers to stop contacting his family and friends for inside information.

Johnson’s declaration came after news broke earlier in the day that Pitt junior guard Ryan Murphy entered the transfer portal. With a talented group of newcomers joining the team next season — along with the emergence of first-year forward Justin Champagnie as the Panthers’ leading scorer — rumors swirled that Johnson may look to continue his collegiate career elsewhere.

But if we’re to take Johnson at his word, that’s no longer a concern.

It’s undoubtedly a good thing for Pitt to have Johnson back for his junior season, though the development is perhaps not as exciting for fans as it would’ve been a year ago. The concern at that time was that the Panthers might lose Johnson to the NBA — not another college team — after his sophomore season.

The possibility of Johnson leaving for the professional level quickly dissipated after it became clear that the talented but often erratic sophomore needed additional time to mature as a player. He made only marginal improvements in his assists (4.5 in 2018-19 to 4.9 in 2019-20) and turnovers (4.0 to 3.4) while performing worse in most offensive metrics, including points per game (15.5 to 11.7), 2-point field goal percentage (43.9 to 39.0) and 3-point field goal percentage (35.2 to 33.0).

While Johnson’s funky-looking jump shot will likely never improve, his explosive playmaking ability will continue to be a crucial component of head coach Jeff Capel’s team next season. The addition of hot-shooting transfer guard Ithiel Horton and bruising newcomer John Hugley should only create more opportunities for Johnson to succeed. Pitt fans can only hope that he cuts down on the turnovers and improves his shooting percentages in year three.