This is a legitimate question. Brice Johnson has been more than what we’ve hoped for as a freshman. He’s averaged 9 ppg to this point and is shooting an incredible 63.6% from the field. His offensive ability is, to this point, unquestionable and his sense around the basket is so natural. He always seems to get in the right spot to receive the ball and be in an easy position to score. However, can we expect a guy this young and inexperienced to be able to produce at such a level for the rest of the season? I’m not positive.
Johnson has been in double figures for North Carolina during four of the last five games. It doesn’t matter if Carolina is winning, losing, losing badly, or playing after a week off, he remains true and consistent. He’s been able to score against top tier teams such as Indiana, but the grind of the ACC is a much different animal. The games will be physically demanding and emotionally intense. Not to mention, the opposing crowds are unforgiving and everyone loves when North Carolina loses. Fact.
Brice will have to remained poised and continue to let the game come to him on offense. With the array of weapons that the Tar Heels have at their disposal, Johnson should get plenty of space to operate since the defense will be spread out. James Michael McAdoo should always command the bulk of the attention down low and as long as the wing players make outside shots, then Johnson should fly around relatively unnoticed.
The high percentage of shots made for Johnson is what is mind-boggling to me. Clearly, his shot selection calls for him to take shots closer to the basket than a guy like Leslie McDonald would take for example, which means that he should make more shots, but the space is hard to come by and defense is a lot more congested down there. Tyler Zeller for example, only shot 55% from the floor during his senior season and I think most would agree that he is a more effective scorer than Brice. However, Brice has still exceeded those numbers to this point by close to 10%. Can you imagine how efficient of a scorer he will be once he matures and adds a year or two of experience? The sky is the limit. Unfortunately, the stats will even out as more games are played and defenses figure out a way to slow him down. History tells us that it’s realistic to assume that Johnson will finish the season closer to the 50% range than 60%, but history can also adapt.
I don’t know whether or not Brice will continue to shoot and score to this degree of efficiency throughout the rest of the year, but I will say that Carolina will need him to based on what we’ve seen out of this young team so far. In order to the Heels to get wins in conference play, they will need their scorers to score every game and right now, Brice Johnson is considered one of those scorers. Without his contributions, Carolina would be worse than 8-2.