Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson makes short trip north for pre-draft workout with Pacers

Johnson spent three years at IU
Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson speaks to the media after a pre-draft workout with the Indiana Pacers on June 13, 2024. (Mandatory photo credit: Pacers on SI)
Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson speaks to the media after a pre-draft workout with the Indiana Pacers on June 13, 2024. (Mandatory photo credit: Pacers on SI) /

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson had a day to himself on Wednesday. He was spending time with his friends and enjoying life on the water. Johnson, 24, was in Bloomington, Indiana having a fun afternoon with former teammates in Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis when a call came in.

He was asleep when the phone rang. It was the Indiana Pacers, and they wanted him to come in for a pre-draft workout ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft. "Everything comes out of nowhere," Johnson said Thursday. "You've just got to stay ready."

Johnson said that Jackson-Davis, who just wrapped up his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors, told him to be himself during the pre-draft process. The two overlapped at IU for two seasons, and both ended with an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

This past year, Johnson played without Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers had less success and finished 19-14 while Johnson dealt with some injuries. The six-year college player averaged 7.6 points and 2.8 assists per game in his final collegiate season.

His next step is the pros. He had a previous draft workout with the Washington Wizards, and the Pacers were his second stop. His agent will let him know what comes next, but wherever it is, Johnson wants to show that he's in great shape and is an excellent communicator during workouts.

He also wants to impress with his defensive abilities. "One thing I'm always going to show is I can defend," Johnson said. "Doesn't matter if I get stuck in the post, I always try hard to defend. Every position." He averaged 1.3 steals per game during his college career.

It was a unique NCAA stint for Johnson, who played for six seasons across two schools. The first three were at the University of Pittsburgh, and then he transferred to IU. At his best, he nearly averaged 15 points and six assists per game. But Johnson's numbers, and health, fluctuated.

His three-point shooting took a jump with the Hoosiers, and now the Virginia native is ready for the next step of his basketball career. He is training with an IU coach in Bloomington to stay prepared for whatever comes next.

At this particular pre-draft workout, things were more meaningful for Johnson. After spending three years in Bloomington, he got a chance to drive up to Indianapolis and work out for the nearby NBA team. He watched the Pacers a few times last year and even attended a game when Jackson-Davis' Warriors were in town.

"Being close to here, only an hour away, I went to an NBA game last year. It was with Trayce in the game. It was a good experience," Johnson said.

He got to watch the team up close, and it helped him see their pace. Indiana was among the fastest teams in the league, and a theme in their draft workouts has been tempo. It's part of what has made their pre-draft process unique.

Johnson believes he is at his best in the open floor. He wants to get the ball moving. That's how he likes to play, so he believes being with the Pacers would be a natural fit.

"They play fast paced. That's my speed, that's my caliber of speed," Johnson said. "I like to play fast paced and get up and down the floor."

Across his six-year NCAA career, Johnson averaged 12.2 points and 4.7 assists per game. He's off to a higher level of the sport now. The Pacers have done four pre-draft workouts so far and have two more scheduled. The NBA Draft is in under two weeks, and Indiana is preparing for a unique experience.

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Tony East


Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.