UNC Basketball: Cameron Johnson 2017-2018 season preview

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 31: Cameron Johnson
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 31: Cameron Johnson /

Continuing our 2017-2018 player previews, meet junior forward Cameron Johnson.

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We are all aware of the offseason that Cameron Johnson had to go through, that ended in him almost being ruled ineligible for this year.

After Pitt allowed his full release and let him play for the Tar Heels this year, Johnson could focus solely on basketball and that’s exactly what he did.

Before the season officially got underway, his teammates already liked what they saw out of Johnson, and told Inside Carolina just that.

“(He’s a) smart guy, real smart guy,” Pinson said. “He’s out there trying to get it as fast as he can – and he’s getting it every day we do secondary break options and stuff like that. (He) can shoot the crap out of the ball. Work ethic is there. He wants to get better just like everybody else.”

Joel Berry had this to add as well;

“…. you could tell he was very comfortable and he was just knocking in shots…. That’s what we’re going to need from him. The biggest thing is hopefully he can buy in on the defensive end because that’s what has gotten us to the end of the season. I know he can shoot the ball and he’s a great offensive player, but defense is what we really need from him and hopefully that’s something he can give us.”

Overall, Johnson has fit in extremely well with his new teammates throughout the first couple months of his time at Carolina and looks to take that good chemistry into the season.

2016-2017 Review

In what was a forgettable season for Pitt, Johnson was one of the bright spots for a team that went 16-17.

He averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and shot 42 percent from three in 33 minutes per game.

A great shooter, shown by his percentage, Johnson had 13 games with more than two made three-pointers last season.

His best game of the year was at the Dean Dome, a place that he will play 15 times this season.

He single-handedly kept the Panthers in the game as he finished with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 6-of-9 from three in a two point loss.

2017-18 Role and Preview

Everyone is ready to slide Johnson into the Justin Jackson role for this year’s team and though they may be a similar body and position, their games are very different.

Johnson’s career has never seen him be the go-to player like Jackson was last year but instead, a role player who was more or less a standstill, knockdown shooter.

This is what Johnson had to say to Inside Carolina about his role this season.

“Whatever Coach intends,” Johnson said. “Depending on what lineups we put out, I’ll just contribute in any way — make shots, defend, rebound and do all I can. However Coach feels like he should deploy me is what I’ll do for the team.”

“(I bring) versatility,” Johnson added. “At my size on the wing, I can contribute a lot in the passing lanes and in different areas defensively. (I can) rebound and Coach really values rebounding, so that’s one thing I’ll continue to improve on.”

So what exactly should you expect from Johnson this year?

It will take some time for him to comfortably develop into a main contributor for the Tar Heels on the offensive end, but he will be a constant contributor who will score in the middle-teens throughout the year.

Defensively, he will be a great compliment to Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams, the top defenders on the team. His versatility allows him to guard multiple positions, and he will be called on to be a top defender on this team.


As mentioned multiple times, Johnson’s biggest strength is his shooting.

A career 38 percent three-point shooter, he provides North Carolina with a much-needed shooter after the departure of Justin Jackson.

His wingspan, high and quick release, and height makes it very difficult for defenders to contest his jumper.

A much-improved shooter off the dribble, his ability to use a head fake and get into the mid-range will be something to watch as his comfort with the team grows.

Johnson is also a very capable defender. Because of his versatility and good anticipation, Johnson can easily disrupt passing lanes and make it difficult on opponents.

At 6-foot-8, he is also a very good rebounder. Like Justin Jackson, their body’s aren’t meant to bang around inside, but Johnson’s length will help on the boards.

Bold Prediction

With Joel Berry sidelined for the first few games of the season, this will let Johnson develop confidence being one of the main playmakers for the Tar Heels.

Some people may believe that Johnson will thus become the leading scorer of the Tar Heels for the upcoming season, but I still believe Berry will have a terrific year, leading the Heels in scoring.

Because of Johnson’s skillset, my bold prediction is that he will break Justin Jackson’s single-season made three’s record that he set last year.

Jackson, who shot 37 percent from three last year, saw roughly 50 percent of his shot attempts come from behind the arc, with 7.1 a game. His made three’s per game number finished at 2.6 per game.

Now let’s look at Johnson’s stats from last year.

Only taking 8.6 shots per game, 5.7 of them came from three, making 2.4 a game.

Finishing with 78 made threes per game last year, 27 less than Jackson’s UNC record, Cam Johnson also played in seven fewer games than Justin Jackson.

Because Johnson will be a crucial part of the Tar Heels offense, his shot attempts will be over 10 a game and with another deep ACC and NCAA Tournament run expected, this will give him way more opportunities to add to his total from last year.

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As much as UNC fans want Cam Johnson to be that go-to guy who can make plays for himself off the dribble, his skillset will be best utilized from behind the three-point line.