Robert Johnson's apparent return should help Indiana stay competitive next season

Robert Johnson will return to Indiana next season. (AP)

Archie Miller’s hopes of fielding a competitive team in his debut season at Indiana just became a bit more realistic.

The Hoosiers learned Tuesday that they’ll retain the services of one of the key members of last year’s 18-win NIT team.

Robert Johnson, Indiana’s second leading scorer last season, will withdraw from the NBA draft and return for his senior season, FanRag Sports first reported and his father later confirmed to other outlets. The 6-foot-3 combo guard subsequently sent out a tweet insisting he has not made a decision one way or the other just yet.


Even though Johnson did not receive an invitation to the last week’s combine and was not likely to be selected had he remained in the NBA draft, his return would be a boost for an Indiana program that already lost three other early-entry prospects. Johnson has long been one of the Hoosiers’ most reliable perimeter defenders and blossomed offensively last season after receiving more opportunities in the wake of Yogi Ferrell’s departure.

Johnson started 32 of Indiana’s 34 games last season, averaged 12.8 points per game and and shot 37 percent from behind the arc. He faded a bit late in the season as the Hoosiers plummeted out of NCAA tournament contention, scoring in double figures just three times after Feb. 5.

With Thomas Bryant, O.G. Anunoby and James Blackmon each turning pro, Johnson projects as one of the key players on next year’s Indiana team. He’s likely to start alongside incumbent point guard Josh Newkirk in the backcourt with Collin Hartman, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis anchoring the frontcourt for the Hoosiers.

That nucleus certainly doesn’t compare favorably to what Big Ten frontrunner Michigan State will have next season, but it could be enough to keep the Hoosiers from falling too far.

At the very least, they would be a lot better if Johnson comes back one more year than they would be without him.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!