WASHINGTON, D.C. - A late addition to the Indiana player contingent for Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day, Robert Johnson has finally recovered from an ankle injury that ended his sophomore season.
“It’s been cleared ever since we started practice,” Johnson said this afternoon.
So two weeks and counting.
Now he can concentrate on his highest priorities for improvement on the court.
“Ball handling, vision, studying a lot of film to make the game really slow down for me and I think it has really been helpful,” Johnson.
The ankle issue kept fans from seeing what he could really do his sophomore season, especially late.
“I hurt it early in the season but it was never a major problem but the Purdue game at home, I landed on it and that’s when it became a serious problem,” Johnson said.
Indiana rested him after that and he returned only to aggravate it again against Kentucky in second round of the NCAA tournament, keeping him out of the Sweet Sixteen game against North Carolina that ended Indiana’s season.
The good news for Johnson is Carolina is back on the schedule early on this year as Indiana’s opponent in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. It's also the school that was runner-up in his recruitment out of his Richmond, Virginia area home.
“I know I am definitely (excited) for that game,” Johnson said. “It was a difficult time naturally because I just wanted to be out there so bad and I couldn’t.”
Johnson is one of the obviously candidates to help fill the point guard role that was in Yogi Ferrell’s hands the last four seasons.
“In our system there will be a lot of different guys, especially with Yogi leaving, will be in that role,” Johnson said. “I am just trying to be ready when I’m in.”
Even though his ankle surgery sidelined his full court play for several months, he began working to improve his dribbling skills within a few weeks after he went under the knife.
“There were a lot of different things that I did to work on my ball handling,” Johnson said. “It’s something I think I have got a lot better at this year. It’s a testament to the plan and design of the drills that coach Crean had for me that helped me get better.”
He’s also working to step up off the court.
“I feel like I am really taking up the leadership role,” Johnson said. “Other than Collin (Hartman), me and James (Blackmon) have been here longer than anyone else. I think it is the time for us to do that and step up in that way.”
Blackmon is his classmate and former roommate and the two encouraged each other with their offseason injury rehabs.
“This was my first major injury that I had to have surgery for and he’s been through it a couple times as far as the mental aspect of it, the rehab aspect of it. He did a good job of helping me with it.”
He’s been impressed with Blackmon’s bounce back.
“I think he’s actually better, to be honest,” Johnson said. “He did a really good job with his rehab. It’s obvious when you see him play and practice. A couple of his measurement numbers went up with the strength and conditioning - like his vertical. A testament to how hard he worked to get back.”