Four star power forward Brice Johnson 6-9 200 pounds out of Cordova, SC will play a significant role with the 2012 North Carolina Tar Heels his freshman season. With the departures of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, Johnson, along with fellow freshman Joel James and sophomore Desmond Hubert will compete for playing time along side sophomore James Michael McAdoo.
Johnson is ranked #34 in the ESPNU top 100, 26 spots ahead of future teammate Joel James. Johnson however may not be as college ready as James. A bouncy, face up power forward, with tons of athleticism reminds me a whole lot of John Henson his freshman year in Chapel Hill (with slightly less hype).
Johnson is very thin, 200 lbs at 6-9 make it tough to imagine him doing much damage in the post until he bulks up. Johnson is a terrific defender, very long with big hands he’s one of the top shot blocking prospects in the class. His length also makes me an effective rebounder when he’s able to get position, something that will prove difficult for him early in his career.
He possesses good hands and can really run the floor and finish at the basket in transition. Johnson can sometimes struggle to convert inside and needs to be able to go up stronger and finish with authority around the rim. Again, something that will prove difficult until his body catches up with his game.
The great thing about Johnson and James is both look like they can offer something, especially as a duo their freshman years. At the same time, each is going to need some serious development on the offensive end. Both need to refine their bodies, James needs to keep the weight off, Johnson needs to pack on the muscle, especially in the shoulders. Both prospects look like 3-4 year players, in this day and age is extremely valuable.
I anticipate Johnson losing out to either James or Hubert for the last starting spot in the paint this year. He’s a prime candidate to struggle early as he adjusts to the more physical, faster collegiate game. But once the light turns on, this kids athleticism will have a real chance to take over. Unlike McAdoo who was stuck behind two All-ACC players, Johnson will get plenty of minutes this season in the big man rotation for Roy Williams. That should help him with his adjustment and make it easier for him to integrate his game on both ends of the floor.