Indiana has been missing three scholarship players for the last two games, including starting point guard Xavier Johnson, who suffered a broken foot at Kansas on Dec. 17.
Johnson has given the appearance he is progressing in his rehabilitation. He’s been seen shooting the basketball without a boot before each of IU’s last two contests, and the optics suggest Johnson will play again this season.
But just how close is Johnson to an actual return to the court for live action?
Head coach Mike Woodson still doesn’t know for sure.
“He’s been out there trying to shoot a little bit, he just got out of the boot, but I just don’t know,” Woodson said on Thursday morning as his team is preparing to face Purdue (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN).
One thing that is not holding Johnson back is a desire to get back on the floor. He had a great game at Purdue last year, and he’d try to take on the Boilermakers again on Saturday if the staff would let him.
“It’s hard to say when he’s actually going to be back. If you ask Xavier, he thinks he can play tomorrow, and listen, I’ve been around basketball a long time, that’s impossible, the guy broke his foot. I’m not using that in a negative way, I wish he could play tomorrow, but I don’t know. At this point I’m just trying to deal with the guys that are in uniform.”
In his fifth season of college basketball, Johnson was averaging a career low 9.9 points per game as he tried to find chemistry playing alongside fellow point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. But he is a major factor on Indiana’s perimeter defense, and he had massive games in IU’s early season wins over Xavier and North Carolina. Johnson averaged 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in those contests. He also had 11 points and 11 assists in a loss to Arizona.
Teams have had recent success slowing down Indiana’s offensive attack via full court presses lately — another area where Johnson’s presence would likely provide significant value.
Johnson isn’t the only main rotation player Woodson has been missing.
Junior forward Jordan Geronimo has missed each of the last two games with what Woodson said he is calf injury. His status for the Purdue game is uncertain.
“Geronimo shot a little bit yesterday, he’s had a calf strain, that’s what keeping him out,” Woodson said. “I’ve known players that have had calf problems, and that’s something you can’t tinker with or mess around with or you could be out for a longer period of time if you come back too soon, so I don’t know what the outcome is. I haven’t gotten the report today since I’ve been in the office. I’ll get that here in a few on those guys to see where they are.”
Indiana has described Geronimo’s injury as an aggravation of a prior issue, but it isn’t clear when he initially suffered the injury. He averaged 10 points and seven rebounds over a three game span that included wins over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State, but then played just six minutes at Minnesota and hasn’t seen the floor since.
While he hasn’t factored into the main rotation, Indiana has also been missing sophomore center Logan Duncomb for several games in a row. Woodson said Duncomb has a “major sinus infection.”
Duncomb could be an emergency option against Purdue’s star center Zach Edey if he’s healthy and Indiana is in foul trouble.
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