UNC Basketball: Brice Johnson Must Get Better Defensively


Brice Johnson is a scoring machine for Carolina in just 13.5 minutes per game this season Johnson is averaging 8.7 points per game.  UNC desperately needs him and sophomore James Michael McAdoo to establish themselves as consistent scoring threats in the post to open things up for the teams perimeter shooters.  Many times this season I’ve found myself asking the question where the heck is Brice Johnson?  Why isn’t he on the floor right now?

Nov 27, 2012; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Will Sheehey (0) dunks against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For a team lacking identity and struggling from game to game to find a successful winning formula Carolina needs to get back to what they do and that’s running the floor and playing inside out in the half court.  That means they need Brice Johnson to play well enough to force head coach Roy Williams to put him on the floor for more than 33% of the game.  So why is he on the bench?  It’s certainly not his offensive game which has looked sharp, it’s because the freshman often looks lost and is routinely out of position on the defensive end of the court.

Roy Williams has and always will favor defense over offense when it comes to divvying up playing time.  I don’t always agree with and my personal feelings are that Roy needs to sit offensively inept players like Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons and give Brice and fellow freshman Joel James more playing time for them to figure things out but that ship sailed long ago.

At 6-9 187 pounds Brice doesn’t intimidate anybody defensively but it’s not his lack of bulk that has earned him a seat on the bench for almost 67% of the game it’s his lack of understanding in terms of positioning and where to be on the court.  UNC ranks third in the country in scoring at 84 points per game and third in rebounding at 45.8 per contest it’s on the defensive end that they are failing.

Carolina has proven that they cannot be trusted to bury lesser opponents multiple times this season a lack of intensity and awareness on the defensive end has become habit this season and no player is more guilty than Johnson.  UNC played just three games in a 14 day stretch from December 1st-15th and that time afforded me the opportunity to re-watch every single game the Heels have played this season, on many occasions Brice has come off the bench and provided instant offense only to be pulled from the game mere minutes later because of defensive lapses.

One thing that has to be driving Roy crazy is the fact that the freshman has shown that he is capable of avoiding these lapses.  Roy has yet to settle on a starting center 12 games into the season flip flopping between Johnson, James and Hubert and it might be because he’s waiting on it to click with Johnson on the defensive end of the court.  Johnson has made two starts this season November 21st against Chaminade and again December 15th against East Carolina, both of his starts came immediately following his best defensive performances of the season leading me to believe Roy would like to hand the keys over to Johnson if only he could prove consistent defensively.

Brice reminds a lot of people of John Henson with his length and lanky frame and has a lot of potential as a shot blocker.  While Johnson oozes natural instinct on the offensive end with quick and decisive moves to the basket and the ability to score on just about anyone he seems to lack common sense on the other end.

We’re heading into the toughest part of the schedule with ACC play just around the corner and UNC needs their best players on the court and Brice Johnson is absolutely one of those players but if he doesn’t get it together defensively he better work on his cheer leading abilities because he’ll find himself sitting on the bench more and more as the season wears on.