Panther-lair - Johnson leaves Pitt
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Johnson leaves Pitt

Xavier Johnson’s college career will end someplace other than Pitt, as the junior guard entered the transfer portal on Wednesday.

The news of Johnson’s departure was first reported by Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pitt announced it as well.

“The Pitt men’s basketball program and Xavier Johnson have mutually agreed that it is in everyone’s best interest to part ways,” head coach Jeff Capel said in a press release. “He will enter then transfer portal and is no longer a member of our program. We wish him the best of luck as he looks to continue his career elsewhere.”

Johnson’s junior season had been a roller coaster, at best. He scored in double figures in 13 of 18 games, topped 20 points four times and went off for 32 points in Pitt’s upset win over Virginia Tech earlier this month.

Johnson’s 14.2 points per game ranked third on Pitt’s roster, and his 103 assists were the second-most in the ACC. But he also had 59 turnovers, including 13 in the last three games - all losses.

Even more concerning were Johnson’s foul issues, which seemed to grow as the season progressed. He fouled out three times this season, including twice in the last six games, and he also seemingly developed a penchant for technical fouls: he was called for three technicals this season.

Still, Johnson was a key piece on Pitt’s roster. A three-year starter at point guard, he averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game over the course of his career and shot 40.2% from the floor and 33.6% from three.

He was also an early boost to the program after Capel was hired in the spring of 2018. Johnson had signed with Nebraska, but when Kenya Hunter left the Huskers, Johnson got a release and quickly became a priority target for Capel.

Johnson’s eventual commitment to Pitt - as well as the commitments of Au’Diese Toney and Trey McGowens - signaled a positive future for Capel, who managed to snag those three recruits just months after he was hired.

Now, Johnson and McGowens have both left the program, with the latter leaving last offseason and transferring to Nebraska. Freshman Femi Odukale, who has served as the backup point guard this season, will likely take over for Johnson as the lead guard.

Pitt is off until Sunday, when the Panthers will play at N.C. State. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 pm.