There hasn’t been a much bigger storyline this season for North Carolina basketball than the four new freshmen. How will they play? Can they replace the players who went to the NBA? Will we win games with them on the floor? There were a lot of questions surrounding them and at this point, several are still left unanswered. Based on what we have seen we do know, generally speaking, where each player currently stands and what they will offer tomorrow and down the road. In my opinion, after watching these first seven games, Brice Johnson is North Carolina’s future.
Johnson is by no means a star right now, but he shown more production (an argument can be made for Marcus Paige) than any of the freshmen at this point in the season. Brice has quick, but soft hands around the rim and is not afraid to shoot the basketball. He runs the floor with great pace and can haul in rebounds on both ends of the court. Defensively, he’s a little raw, but he has great potential. In high school, Brice averaged 8.0 blocks per game and built a reputation as a stopper in the paint. Obviously, his size will cause him to have to adjust since he no longer is the biggest kid in the gym, but once he bulks up and gains more experience, he’ll be a force.
I see Johnson as a smaller hybrid version of John Henson and Tyler Zeller. Johnson possesses the Zeller like touch and willingness to shoot around the basket and he has the frame and long arms that Henson was well known for. Once those qualities get developed more, we are looking at a future first team all ACC player. Johnson is the kind of guy that will be around for three or four years and will undoubtedly be a big piece that Roy Williams will build around going forward. With his talent already apparent, I see Johnson being a big reason why the Tar Heels seriously contend for a National Title in the next two or three seasons.
Ironically, Johnson was probably the least talked about rookie coming to Carolina before the season and for no real particular reason. Johnson was the 8th best player at his position nationally out of high school and 34th overall according to ESPN. He was the second highest rated freshman we had behind Marcus Paige. Why wouldn’t that warrant tons of hype? Well, unfortunately Brice was at a disadvantage because on paper there wasn’t one things that stood out and I don’t mean that negatively at all. He was being looked at beside Paige the new point guard and heir apparent to the ever so popular Kendall Marshall, Joel James who was just an absolute massive physical specimen, and JP Tokoto, whose dunking ability was compared to some of the all time greats in Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse. Then there was Johnson, just an all around good basketball player out of Orangeburg, SC.
Now, several game into a young season, Brice Johnson has stolen the spotlight. He has scored double figures in four games this season and is averaging 8.9 ppg. His offense is much more consistent than any of the other freshmen as evidence of his high shooting percentage. It won’t be long before Johnson gets more comfortable in his role and really assert himself as one of the team’s go to players. Before long, we will see this kid blossom into a player that will lead Carolina on several postseason runs.
Brice Johnson is a great talent and has so much potential to be a big time college basketball player. Given his offensive prowess and his consistency, I feel strongly that the next time North Carolina raises a banner, Brice Johnson will be the cornerstone behind it.