UNC Basketball: Cameron Johnson playing lights out to start season

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Cameron Johnson
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Cameron Johnson /

Cameron Johnson scorching the nets for North Carolina to begin the season

Cameron Johnson joined the North Carolina basketball program in 2017 with a reputation as knockdown three-point shooter. After shooting better than 41 percent as a sophomore at Pittsburgh, Johnson’s first season with the Tar Heels was a bit of a letdown in terms of efficiency from long-range.

After missing 11 games to a knee injury to begin the 2017-18 season, Johnson never quite got on track. He was an integral part of the team — both offensively and defensively — but lacked consistency throughout the season. Some of that can probably be attributed to the late start he got, but even more of it to the fact that he never got fully healthy. He shot a modest 42.6 percent from the floor for the season, and just 34.1 percent from beyond the arc.

If the first two weeks of this season are any indication at all, then Johnson appears to be healthy, and back on track.

Through three games, Johnson is leading the Tar Heels in scoring with 18.3 points per game, and his 6.7 rebounds per game are second only to Luke Maye. But even more impressive than his overall production is his efficiency over the team’s first 120 minutes of game action.

Johnson is shooting nearly 65 percent from the floor to start the season, including an eye-popping 71.4 percent from three-point range. Those numbers obviously indicate that Johnson’s currently shooting better from beyond the arc than he is inside it. That, in and of itself, is impressive.

Also impressive is the fact that very few of Johnson’s 10 made three-pointers have even hit the rim. And his efforts from the free throw line — where he’s knocked down five of his first six attempts — have been very similar.

Another difference between this season and last is the level of confidence that Johnson has in his shot. He wasn’t shy about shooting the basketball last season, taking 265 total shots and 138 from behind the three-point line, but his rhythm simply didn’t look as good as it has to start the season this year.

When Johnson has gotten the ball and lined up for a shot against the Tar Heels’ first three opponents, he’s let go of the ball thinking that he’s going to make the bucket. And so far, 10 of his 14 attempts from downtown have gone for scores.

How much more dangerous does an effective Cameron Johnson make the Tar Heels this season? Extremely.

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Consider this: The Tar Heels already have one of the best-shooting bigs in the country in Luke Maye, as well as Kenny Williams, who appears to be coming out of his early-season slump. Throw in sophomore sharpshooter Andrew Platek, as well as newcomers Nassir Little and Coby White — who are both expected to hit their fair share of threes — and North Carolina could be the most dangerous three-point shooting team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.