Men’s Basketball: Grad transfer Javan Johnson adds spark to DePaul


Ben Zebrowski

DePaul men’s basketball forward Javan Johnson looking on against Xavier on Jan. 19.

Through the midst of coaching staff and roster changes under the umbrella of a new athletic director, the DePaul men’s basketball team added another late piece to the roster — Javan Johnson.

A graduate transfer from Troy and Iowa State University, DePaul announced his transfer on Nov. 5 and he made his debut on Dec. 29, 10 games into the Blue Demons’ season. Johnson had to clear academic responsibilities with Iowa State before becoming eligible to play for the Blue Demons.

Johnson is originally from Decatur, Alabama, where he showed off his skill set in high school as a lengthy wing that can score the ball in a multitude of ways, pass the ball effectively and play defense. With offers from small Division-one schools like Murray State, South Alabama and East Carolina, he chose Troy to begin with.

In his second season at Troy, the then-sophomore Johnson entered the starting lineup and averaged 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in nearly 30 minutes per game.

After redshirting his first season at Iowa State, Johnson averaged 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in his second season. He started 18 of 21 games for the Cyclones, missing three due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

The Cyclones went through a disappointing 2-22 season last year, winning zero conference games in the BIG 12 and ultimately parting ways with their head coach, Steve Prohm, after six seasons with the team.

According to Johnson, that didn’t play a factor in his transfer.

“I just wanted to be somewhere different,” Johnson said. “Just felt like I needed a fresh start after the last two years.”

Johnson found that fresh start in Chicago, admiring the culture the men’s basketball team established and enjoying the presence of his teammates.

How did Johnson decide on DePaul?

The DePaulia reached out to former Blue Demon and Johnson’s former Cyclone teammate, Jalen Coleman-Lands, to find out.

“First of all, Javan’s a great guy,” Coleman-Lands said. “Relaxed, chill, always got your back. That’s the type of person he is. Even as a teammate, he’s somebody that you love playing with because he’s a playmaker and capable of filling the basket up. Dynamic scorer.”

Johnson and Coleman-Lands had a fun relationship, according to Coleman-Lands. He even referred to him as “J-Toven” during their time in Ames.

During Johnson’s desire for a “fresh start,” he asked Coleman-Lands about DePaul, where he played for two years during his junior and senior seasons before transferring to Iowa State. While it wasn’t the main factor, Coleman-Lands contributed to his decision to become a Blue Demon, according to Johnson.

“He [Coleman-Lands] told me all about DePaul and gave me a lot of good insight,” Johnson said. “All positive things, even outside of basketball, just connections and meeting people. Being in the city, beyond basketball as well.”

Johnson, this season, is averaging 17 minutes per game and 4.8 points per contest. It’s been a fast adjustment, according to Johnson, since he has to learn plays and the systems of the team. But, he is commended for his versatility on both sides of the ball.

“Javan has been behind the eight-ball because he wasn’t here for the fall,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “It’s like jamming for a test, giving him all the information. But, he’s been great at taking it all in and being very coachable. What’s helping him is his basketball IQ, so he picks up on things very quickly.”

Already three to four weeks into his time with the Blue Demons, Johnson said he’s feeling “comfortable” and that “it’s time to produce.”

Johnson has lofty goals for the Blue Demons and intends to contribute as much as he can on both sides of the ball. He plans to do whatever Stubblefield has in mind for him to help the team.

“Get to the [NCAA] Tournament, that’s the main goal,” Johnson said.

The Blue Demons are 10-7 so far this season and have recorded one conference win over their first seven conference games. They will likely be looking for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, with an emphasis on improving their conference record.

As for the future, Johnson plans to keep things in Chicago.

“Most definitely,” Johnson said when asked about playing at DePaul next season. “I just like the culture they’re building here, the family atmosphere. I just like everything about it.”

Johnson’s transfer to DePaul can provide a few takeaways about the new-look Blue Demons.

Outside of the strong recruiters on the Blue Demons’ coaching staff, they can rely on their external network to speak highly of the program, as Coleman-Lands did.

“That’s something that we’re open to at DePaul,” Stubblefield said. “Just knowing that network is there, how highly people speak of DePaul, is just more exciting and good to know.”