Cameron Johnson’s story in Chapel Hill began on January 31st, 2017.
Johnson and the Pittsburgh Panthers came to the Dean E. Smith Center to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. The 6’8″ wing seemingly couldn’t miss that night, scoring 24 points including 6-9 from downtown. Even though UNC held on to win the game, 80-78, Johnson left his mark on Head Coach Roy Williams and his staff.
This came into play several months later when Johnson, who had just graduated early from Pitt, announced that he would be transferring. UNC, along with a number of other schools including Kentucky and Kansas, were quick to begin their recruitment process of Johnson. After taking several official visits it was clear to Johnson that Carolina was where he wanted to be.
Thanks to some stubbornness on the part of Pittsburgh, the transfer process would be a difficult one.
Even though Johnson had graduated Pitt two years early with a 3.6 GPA, the university initially required that he would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another ACC school.
Johnson ended up committing to Carolina even with the threat that he would be forced to miss the upcoming season and lose one of the two years of eligibility that he still had left. Roy Williams reiterated over and over to Johnson that Pitt would eventually give in and allow the grad transfer to go wherever he would like.
Several weeks later, after much controversy and public ridicule, Pitt granted Johnson a full release. He was now eligible to play for the Tar Heels this season.
The question now became how would Johnson fit in for the defending National Champs. Six months later, it still isn’t completely clear.
Johnson was expected to start at the beginning of the season, but he lost the opportunity to do so after a knee injury suffered in practice. Johnson is expected to return for the start of ACC play at the very latest.
Junior guard Kenny Williams has stepped into a starting role in place of Johnson, and he has done an outstanding job. The 6’4″ guard is a lockdown defender, shoots it lights out from deep, and his ability to draw charges and make hustle plays has drawn high praise from Coach Williams.
Because of Kenny Williams’ superb performance, it will be hard to justify benching him in favor of Johnson. That being said, Johnson will give UNC a huge upgrade to its bench at the very least.
Johnson’s biggest strength is his outside shooting. The 6’8″ wing shot 40 percent from deep last year. This dangerous shooting ability will help the Tar Heels stretch the floor on offense, which will greatly benefit their trio of young big men.
The bottom line is the return of Cameron Johnson could potentially take an already very good UNC team to the next level. If the Tar Heels are to make a third straight Final Four, Johnson will play a large part in it.
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