Xavier basketball adds a pair of graduate transfers

Nate Johnson is one of Xavier’s new additions for the 2020-21 season. The graduate transfer averaged more than 13 points per game last season at Gardner-Webb and adds to the team’s 3-point shooting with range from deep.

In the past few weeks, Xavier men’s basketball has picked up two graduate transfers for the upcoming season. Nate Johnson, a guard, joins the Musketeers from Gardner-Webb where he averaged 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 32.2 minutes per game. As a sophomore the year before, Johnson averaged 9.7 points per game and shot 38.9% from 3-point range. 

Johnson fills one of Xavier’s biggest needs for the 2020-21 season which is shooting from the wing. He had 11 games last season where he hit three or more 3s, and he had nine such games in his sophomore season. 

“Nate is a guy that will impact our team on both ends of the court,” head coach Travis Steele said in a press release. “Nate brings a great deal of versatility, which is what you want at the wing position in today’s game. He can guard multiple positions and he’s a very good shooter. We made it a priority to add some shooting to our lineup for next season … He is a leader (and) is going to be a great voice in the locker room.”

Johnson’s defense is also solid, as he was graded as Gardner Webb’s top defender last season using Synergy Sports’ efficiency metrics. He will surely be in the conversation to start immediately for Xavier, but if he doesn’t start, he’ll certainly see consistent minutes off the bench as his shooting will be needed. 

Johnson will join a Xavier guard rotation that includes senior Paul Scruggs, sophomore KyKy Tandy and also incoming freshmen Dwon Odom and C.J. Wilcher. 

Xavier filled another one of their big needs with the pickup of Bryan Griffin, a Division II power forward out of Mercy College in New York. 

The Musketeers didn’t have a ton of depth behind Jason Carter at the four, and Griffin is a body that can provide decent minutes off the bench. Last year at Mercy, Griffin averaged 19.5 points per game and 14.5 rebounds per game while shooting 51.8% from the field. 

Griffin isn’t expected to be a big contributor offensively, but he could develop into a decent post defender. Where Griffin excels and where he’ll provide most of his help for Xavier is on the glass, as Griffin is an advanced rebounder who will try and help fill the rebounding void left by Tyrique Jones’ departure. 

“Bryan brings that physicality you need in the Big East,” Steele said in a press release. “Bryan is mobile for a big guy and he really attacks the glass. With what we lost off of this year’s team, we really needed to add some rebounding and that is what he does best. Rebounding translates no matter what level you play on.”

Griffin will likely be a guy who plays around 8-10 minutes and can grab some boards off the bench.  He can also give Jason Carter or Zach Freemantle a breather.

Xavier is still involved with a few transfers for 2021, none moreso than Trevor Lakes, a 6-foot-11 forward from Division II Indianapolis. Lakes is a talented shooter, and he would be able to stretch the floor well for Xavier. 

However, Xavier is looking at him more for the 2021 roster, and even if the one-time transfer exemption rule is passed that would allow players to play immediately, it’s likely Lakes would still take a redshirt year for the 2020 season. 

Colin Castelton, a big man from Michigan, is another player Xavier may be involved with. However, he likely wouldn’t want to sit out a year and it’s tough to find a fit for him in the rotation in 2020, which could lead to him opting to go elsewhere.