Brice Johnson has been patiently waiting for two years to become the starting “4” at UNC. Well, the wait is over and when the season rolls around, Brice will most likely be the starting power forward – and with that comes hope and major expectations.
Since the day he arrived in Chapel Hill, Brice Johnson has been one of the more offensively polished players on the squad. With his freakish athleticism and the ability to score with his back to the basket, some wondered why he wasn’t getting more PT? It was two simple reasons: His lack of defense and, more importantly, James Michael McAdoo. Although the South Carolina native is a super athlete and will block some shots, overall he’s just average on the defensive end. Brice really struggled with help defense and James Michael was great at it. McAdoo was also bigger, stronger, faster and probably a little better, so I totally understand why he logged most of the minutes at the 4.
Entering his junior season, big things are expected from Johnson. The slim power forward averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in just 19.4 minutes per game. Being the starter will undoubtedly result in more time on the court and that alone should increase his production across the board. I’m expecting between 16-18 points, 7 or 8 boards and a couple of blocks per game for Brice. I’m aware that those expectations are high, but this young man has that type of talent and then some. With that being said, playing with passion (all the time) and his defensive issues are still Johnson’s major roadblocks to stardom.
Through his first couple of seasons at Carolina, its been pretty easy to recognize that Johnson goes as his offense goes. If he’s wasn’t making shots, then he wasn’t rebounding or playing much defense either. Brice also has a tendency to pout when things aren’t going his way and that effects how hard he plays from time to time. It’s been well documented about his troubles on D – however, I’m optimistic that he will become an above average defender. He will likely add a little more bulk during the off-season, which will help him stand his ground. Being more experienced should help him as a team defender and just maturing should allow him to play more even-keeled and avoid the emotional roller coaster that hurt him and this team at times.
2014-2015 has a chance to be a special season for the Tar Heels. Barring injury or the best player becoming ineligible, Carolina has a real shot at reaching its first final four since 2009. For that to happen a big season from Brice Johnson is likely needed and I for one am expecting just that!