Winning has always been a part of freshman forward Xavier Johnson’s life, and winning is exactly what brought him to CU.
Johnson is originally from Santa Ana, Calif., where he played for high school basketball powerhouse Mater Dei High School.
The Mater Dei Monarchs held a 129-9 record with two state championships during Johnson’s four years with the school, when he averaged a near double double — 18.1 points, 9.2 rebounds.
Johnson’s role as a play-making forward was something he wanted to continue as he proceeded into college, and he said Colorado seemed like the perfect fit.
“Colorado was my second official visit, and when I came here I felt really comfortable with everything, including the coaching style and the game plan they had for me,” Johnson said.
The decision came easier for Johnson as he witnessed Colorado put on their Pac-12 tournament run and NCAA tournament run last year. The idea of winning was once again on his radar.
“Sitting on my couch last year and watching our team win in the tournament definitely influenced my decision,” he said.
Now that Johnson has nuzzled into a comfortable role on the men’s team, he said he could not be happier. Sophomore guard Askia Booker and junior forward Andre Roberson, have dubbed Johnson the “X-Factor,” which he embraces.
“Johnson really is our X-Factor, the energy he brings is definitely something we need and love,” Roberson said in a post-game conference after Johnson’s strong performance against Stanford on Jan. 24.
Johnson seems to play his best against the stiffer competition. He netted a near double double against No. 9 Arizona with 19 points and 9 rebounds.
More than his impressive season, Johnson said he has enjoyed seeing this year’s young team begin to mesh and play well together.
“The progression has been fun to watch, we’re young so freshmen like myself and Josh [Scott] have had to step up,” he said.
His win-the-next-game mindset has been partially instilled by Head Coach Tad Boyle.
“Tad brings a lot of energy and lifts me up, our team up, and our fans up,” he said. “He’s been great.”
Johnson grew tremendously throughout the season. He entered as a solid bench player and developed into an almost full-time starter.
Teammates, coaches and even fans have noticed Johnson’s transformation and look forward to seeing him continue to develop.
“Watching Xavier step up into the role he has is awesome for a freshman,” Shreyash Pradhan, a member of Colorado’s C-Unit, said. “I think he’s got a lot of talent and definitely see him moving up as star player in the future.”
The physicality Johnson brings is another factor members of the C-Unit see and love.
“Johnson’s size and aggression is huge for Colorado, especially since we’re a smaller team in general,” Pradhan said.
This theme of progression from the bottom up, age or otherwise, is something that is becoming common ground for CU basketball.
“We’re young, we got some good red-shirts and a lot of good things happening here,” Johnson said.
The Buffs’ season might be over after a loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Illinois, but expect to see Johnson on the court ready to go next fall.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Grayson O’Roark at Grayson.email@example.com.
CUBuffs.com and ESPN.com contributed to this report.