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bsn BSN: CU Buffs: Xavier Johnson’s decision looms, what should he do?

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Dec 30, 2015.

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    Colorado Buffaloes senior forward Xavier Johnson is recovering torn left achilles tendon, an injury which he suffered this past summer. He was originally expected to miss te entire season but as the months have passed speculation has grown about his status. Now CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein has reported that Johnson will meet with his coaches this week to decide if he will redshirt this season.

    The 11-2 Buffs are playing better than many had expected going into the season and have put themselves in a good spot for NCAA Tournament contention as they enter conference play. One of the areas where the Buffs have excelled is on the wing, with stellar play coming from junior Tre’Shaun Fletcher, redshirt sophomore Geroge King and junior transfer Josh Fortune. Johnson’s standing in the very role where he has been productive each of his three years has become undefined. This may seem like a bad thing considering it is an essential position in Tad Boyle’s rotation which has become muddied, but it’s actually a great thing. With Johnson, the Buffs would have an embarrassment of riches on the wing. Therein lies the problem.

    If Johnson were to come back the Buffs would gain a senior forward that has played almost 2,500 minutes in the past three years, scoring almost 1,000 points in that time. His college career has been one of the most decorated in CU history but if he were to come back this season the Buffs would have four more-than-capable-wings in their rotation. In this scenario, some major shifting would need to be done to Boyle’s lineup which has gelled well to this point.

    Perhaps the bigger question is not how this affects the team but how does it affect the individual. If the forward were to sit out the season he’d gain a year of eligibility next year. This would bolster next season’s lineup and give the Buffs two redshirt seniors as leaders in Johnson and Wesley Gordon. It seems almost logical that the Buffs would withhold Johnson from playing this year and bring him back for next year however it’s not.

    Simply put if Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes delay the senior’s eligibility for the year they are also delaying his post-college life. There is little chance that Johnson will play in the NBA but he could join a troop of Buffs playing professionally overseas. Not to say that his post-college career will be as glamours as Alec Burks’ but only Johnson knows what his intentions are.

    From the pure basketball perspective, the six-foot-seven forward may not be completely healthy. He risks the longevity of his Achilles and he won’t be playing to hs fullest capabilities because he would pretty much be rushing back from an injury, he would not get the full recovery time and may not even be in playing shape for a few valuable weeks. With that being said, would Johnson even add anything to Colorado’s current mix of wings?

    At the very least Johnson adds leadership. He also adds versatility, mid range shooting, inside scoring, more rebounding and depth. Looking at the numbers it appears he is just a less efficient Geroge King and this may be true, but if Johnson is to come back he might not necessarily be playing in that role. The larger wing can play the four position more capably than King can. Over the past three years, there has been some hesitation to play Johnson at the four but it would give Tad Boyle four very viable big men. Johnson would cut into the much-improved sophomore Tory Miller’s playing time but at this point Johnson is most likely a better player.

    If the Buffs do put the redshirt on Johnson, things don’t become any less complicated next season with transfer Dereck White joining the fold. For next year, Johnson would almost be pushed into power forward position with Josh Scott graduating and Wes Gordon moving to center. The one huge benefit for Johnson next year would be near-guaranteed health.

    What should the Buffaloes and Johnson do?

    Colorado has a great chance this year, right now, to win the Pac-12. It may sound crazy but really the Pac-12 is wide open this season. The Buffaloes have a great schedule and they’ve put themselves in a very good position entering conference play. They have put the onus on themselves to be a tournament team. These chances don’t come very often, the Buffs need to capitalize.

    It’d be foolish for the Buffs to attempt a championship run without a player that could help them. Prior to the NCAA Cross Country Championship, Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore took one of his runners off of redshirt after having him sit out the entire regular season. His explanation for doing so was that he thought that runner could help his team and that he didn’t know if they’d ever have an opportunity to win a title again. Very modest coming from a coach who has had 11 runners combine for 22 NCAA titles. But to his point, he said he’d feel awful if that runner didn’t get another chance to perform on such a high stage. This is what Tad Boyle has the opportunity to do, make a good run with this team and have the chance to include one of his program’s most distinguished players.

    To what level Johnson can compete is unknown but what is known is that he can contribute. As the Buffs enter conference play, they need all hands on deck if they want to reach their lofty goals.

    Jake Shapiro
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