UNC adds forward from S.C. to recruiting class

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 26, 2011 

North Carolina added another big man to its growing basketball recruiting class on Wednesday.

Forward Brice Johnson, 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, committed to the Tar Heels, joining 6-10 forward Joel James in a four-man class that will help the No. 1 Tar Heels reload after this basketball season.

Johnson, from Cordova, S.C., chose the Tar Heels on Wednesday over N.C. State, Clemson and Florida, according to ESPN’s Dave Telep.

Telep ranks Johnson as the 25th-best prospect in the class of 2012. The lanky power forward averaged 23 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks a game as a high school junior last season at Edisto High.

“He’s equal parts prospect and player, so they’re going to have to be patient with him,” Telep said. “He’s a great athlete and shot blocker. He’s capable of putting up a triple-double.”

Johnson’s the fourth commitment in the class for the Tar Heels, joining James (No. 57 in the ESPNU top 100), point guard Marcus Paige (28) and wing forward J.P. Tokoto (65).

The Tar Heels, ranked No. 1 in the country heading into this college season, will have to replace senior forward Tyler Zeller next season and could potentially lose forwards John Henson, Harrison Barnes and James Michael McAdoo early to the NBA.

Telep said UNC’s recruiting class will be highly-rated, but it does not feature a singular standout like Barnes.

“The sum is greater than the individual parts,” Telep said.

Technically, Johnson’s commitment puts UNC over the scholarship limit for the 2012-13 season, but that’s only if Barnes, who was projected as the top pick in last year’s NBA draft, returns for next season along with Henson.

UNC had been pursuing forward T.J. Warren of Durham, but Warren, the No. 23 prospect in the class, narrowed his final list of schools to N.C. State and Georgetown, according to Telep. Warren’s father Tony played basketball at N.C. State in the late 1970s.

Johnson’s father, Herman Johnson, is his basketball coach at Edisto. Edisto athletic director Andy Palmer said that has helped Johnson develop his game.

“Wherever Herman went, Brice kind of went with him, living in the gym,” Palmer said. “He was always shooting baskets, one after the other, so he’s got a great touch from the outside.”

Johnson’s also a gifted jumper. He won the South Carolina 2-A state title in the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 10 inches in the state meet in the spring.

Palmer said the primary concern about Johnson is adding weight to his lanky frame.

“North Carolina will get him in the weight room and put some weight on him where he can handle the rigors of the ACC,” Palmer said.

Staff writer Ken Tysiac contributed to this report.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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