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Xavier Johnson emerges as floor general for Pitt

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The freshman leads the team in assists and steals and ranks second in scoring

PittsburghPanthers.com

Pitt guard Xavier Johnson is off to an incredible start to his collegiate career, as he is averaging 15.0 points, 8.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game through the first three games of the season. Against VMI last Friday, he posted his first double-double, with 14 points and 10 assists, and against Troy on Monday, he followed that up with 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

In each game this season, Johnson has looked like Pitt’s most versatile player, and he’s accounted for almost half of Pitt’s 54 assists this season, amassing 25 thus far. That’s made all the more impressive by the fact that he is not only a freshman, but a former three-star prospect who now appears to have been significantly underrated during his recruitment process.

For his part, Johnson credits the competitive environment he emerged from in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area for the early success he’s experienced.

“The league I played in high school, it’s pretty much the same thing,” Johnson said Monday night. “I thought it was the best conference in high school, and I thought that pretty much prepared me.”

Pitt head coach Jeff Capel has also taken notice of Johnson’s performance and commented on his progress during the postgame press conference following his team’s 84-75 win over Troy.

“He is a willing listener,” Capel said. “He wants to learn. You can coach him hard. He’s a worker. He’s done a good job to this point. We need him to continue to be hungry, which we know he will be. But he’s really done a good job, especially with being thrown right into the fire.”

With that said, Johnson is just one piece of a talented team that’s showing great improvement from last season, and many other cogs in the machine were shining in the win over Troy.

Most notably, Jared Wilson-Frame posted a career-high 24 points and continued to put his newfound long-range accuracy on display, as he went 6-for-10 from beyond the arc. Pitt’s bigs also stepped up, as Terrell Brown and Kene Chukwuka both had double-digit point totals.

Given all that, the Panthers appear poised to make strides in the 2018-19 season, and Johnson will likely be a central figure in their progress as their chief playmaker.