Xavier Johnson hopes Team Colorado sparks transition from G League to spot overseas

Former wing back at CU after two seasons with Texas Legends

Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Team Colorado’s Xavier Johnson grabs the pass during basketball practice at the CU Events Center in Boulder on July 22, 2019.

Xavier Johnson isn’t ready to give up on his NBA dreams.

He is, however, eager for a little more stability as he forges ahead with his basketball career.

A little more than two years removed from his last game with the Colorado Buffaloes, Johnson is one of the newcomers with Team Colorado, the squad of CU alums that again will take aim at the $2 million jackpot in The Basketball Tournament. The former Buffs tip off Friday night in a first-round match against Purple and Black (Kansas State alums) in Wichita (7 p.m. MT, ESPN3).

After spending the past two seasons with the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, Johnson says he is setting his sights on continuing his career somewhere overseas. Joining Team Colorado this summer is giving Johnson an opportunity to pick the brains of former Buffs like Marcus Hall and Richard Roby, both of whom have put together long and lucrative playing careers without realizing those NBA dreams.

“I’m debating, but hopefully I can go, probably, overseas and just work hard,” Johnson said. “This is a great opportunity. Marcus Hall has always played hard and is a very smart point guard. And he’s well-rounded. This is a group that has pros that played overseas a lot, learning how they play and how to fit into their system as a young guy. We’ll see how it goes.”

Always a polarizing figure among Buffs fans, Johnson averaged 11.5 points in 127 games at CU. That latter mark is tied with George King for the seventh-most games played in Buffs history. His 1,463 career points ranks 11th all-time

Despite plenty of high notes as part of the rotation on two NCAA tourney teams at the start of his Buffs career, Johnson also was in the mix on the two most disappointing teams of head coach Tad Boyle’s nine seasons-and-counting tenure at CU over the next three years. Johnson was third on the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game for the 2014-15 team that finished 16-18, ending that run of three straight NCAA appearances. Johnson was sidelined by a torn Achilles tendon when the Buffs returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16, but during his senior year he was part of a core group — along with Derrick White, Josh Fortune, Wes Gordon, and George King — long on experience but short on chemistry.

Johnson averaged a career-best 14.8 points that season, but CU finished 19-15 with a first-round loss at Central Florida in the NIT.

With the Texas Legends last season, Johnson played in 45 games (21 starts) while averaging 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. He shot a solid .506 from the floor but struggled to a .538 mark (63-for-117) at the free throw line.

“It’s been good. A lot of ups and downs,” Johnson said. “It’s a game of you can play 20 minutes or you can play five minutes. And it might not be your fault. It might just be politics, but it’s coming down from other teams. You do the best you can with what you’ve got. It’s hard to get your numbers and all that if you’re not playing consistent minutes.

“But everything has been good. I’ve been grinding, working hard. Getting better at basketball for sure. My basketball IQ has risen. I’m a smarter player. I’m playing harder. I’m playing more team-wise, and overseas you’re going to be meat because you’re an American. It’s going to be a transition for me, but I’m looking forward to going overseas next year.”