Pitt guard Xavier Johnson became the highest-scoring freshman in program history on Wednesday night, as he broke a 34-year-old record set by former Pitt star Charles Smith.
Johnson entered his team’s matchup with Georgia Tech with 434 points, needing just two points to best the mark set by Smith during the 1984-85 season. He would get those points during a trip to the foul line less than three minutes into the game, and after his 14-point performance, the record sits at 449 with four games to go in Johnson’s freshman season.
In addition to breaking the freshman scoring record, Johnson kicked off his career with the Panthers by scoring in double figures in 18 straight games. While that streak came to an end on Jan. 22, Johnson has posted single-digit point totals just three times in 27 games. And he set another freshman record by posting eight 20-plus point games during that span.
Johnson leads the Panthers in scoring and has emerged as the marquee player on the team, much like Smith did upon his arrival in Pittsburgh back in the mid-1980s. However, while Smith was able to guide the Panthers to a winning record in his first season, Johnson seems unlikely to match that feat, as his team has been unable to match his consistency.
For his part, Smith is a program legend whose number and likeness loom over Section 115 of the Petersen Events Center alongside those of Don Hennon, Lorri Johnson, Billy Knight and Brandin Knight. After four years at Pitt, he spent nine in the NBA, and last year, he was inducted into the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class.
Given all that, Johnson’s latest accomplishment is a sure sign that he’s on the right track, and that has to be reassuring for Pitt head coach Jeff Capel as he tries to build the program up around him with additions to the 2019 recruiting class.