What an opening weekend for the North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball team. This season has been highly anticipated by many fans and fortunately, Roy’s boys delivered with two wins against Gardner Webb and Florida Atlantic respectively. We watched a team that looked fluid at times and we also watched a team who’s experience on the floor matched the level of play, but all in all there were good things to take away from both outings. I think the most intriguing player of the bunch though was Brice Johnson.
It could be argued that Brice was the freshman that got the least amount of press and hype of his classmates leading into the new campaign. We all were chomping at the bit to see Marcus Paige run the point the way we knew he could, we all were anxiously awaiting to see big Joel James and his powerful frame control the low post or see JP Tokoto break away for a thunderous dunk, but no one was talking about Brice Johnson.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to watch Brice and JP in the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic last April in Charlotte, NC and by doing so it was my first look at two of the highly touted freshmen that would be donning the scared colors of the University of North Carolina this upcoming winter. The one thing I took away from that event was that Brice Johnson was the only player that didn’t get in the scoring column. It was a little disheartening, especially when NC State frosh Rodney Purvis shared MVP Honors with Shabazz Mohammed. My initial reaction was confusion. Who was this guy? I had heard good things, but none of that was reflected to me over the past two and a half hours. Did Coach Williams misjudge this kid? I hoped not.
When I saw Brice in the Late Night w/Roy and Shaw scrimmages, I thought he looked pretty good. He was definitely a different player from what I saw in April. He was running the floor, fighting for boards, taking high percentage shots, and just playing good basketball. The question was, would this translate into the actual games against tougher competition. So far it has.
I found myself smiling during the Florida Atlantic game whenever Coach Williams sent Brice into action because he was so much fun to watch. Honestly, during both games, when Brice was on the floor he just looked like he understood what was going on. Lots of times you see freshmen get on the floor wide eyed and lose focus of the game plan, but not Brice. He came in both games and made immediate impacts on both ends of the floor. I love this kid’s ability to put himself in position to score. He has a great post game and a plether of moves that get him in position to get the high percentage shot. Being a former track athlete in high school, Brice runs the floor extremely well which will only benefit him in Coach William’s system.
I felt like as the Florida Atlantic game went on, Brice was looked at to get the ball in the post more and more and his 12 points are evident of that. Outside of James Michael McAdoo, there isn’t a proven commodity that can score in the low post for Carolina, but I believe Brice Johnson can be that guy. His offensive prowess and ability to get to the basket have been key components for the Heels thus far. I think the Maui Invitational will be a good indicator for us Tar Heel fans to what Brice’s role will be. I sincerely believe that as he keeps producing, Roy will get him in the game plan to score a lot more often. If he can be a consistent scoring threat and take pressure off of JMM down low then he will free up spce for both players to score. It will definitely be exciting watch this kid develop.