Cameron Johnson signs UNC scholarship

Former Pitt guard Cameron Johnson (right) signed his scholarship agreement at UNC on Friday.
Former Pitt guard Cameron Johnson (right) signed his scholarship agreement at UNC on Friday. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Cameron Johnson, the former University Pittsburgh basketball player who graduated from and then fought for his right to transfer to North Carolina and play immediately , has signed his scholarship agreement to attend UNC, the school announced on Friday.

And so brings a formal end to a saga that began with Johnson questioning his former school's refusal to allow him to transfer to another school within the ACC and compete immediately. Johnson, a 6-foot-8 guard who averaged nearly 12 points per game last season, graduated in three years from Pitt with a 3.9 GPA in Communications.

He sought permission to transfer and play basketball at another school, and Pitt granted a full release with the ability to play immediately anywhere – except, at first, at UNC or any other ACC school. For about a month, Pitt cited its departmental policy about graduate transfers.

That policy, according to the university's athletic department, allows graduate students to transfer and play immediately at schools outside of the ACC. To transfer within the ACC, or to another school on Pitt's schedule next season, Pitt had attempted to force Johnson to sit out for one season.

Johnson, meanwhile, launched a public fight against Pitt's policy, which had no basis in NCAA rules. Under NCAA rules, undergraduates who transfer must sit out for a full season at their next school. Graduate students, meanwhile, are eligible to compete immediately after they transfer.

Individual schools and conferences, though, have their own rules guiding graduate transfers, and Pitt attempted to make Johnson abide. After weeks of outcry, though, the school relented and Johnson, who'd already committed to play at UNC, learned he'd be immediately eligible to compete there.

Johnson could play a significant role in helping the Tar Heels fill the void left by Justin Jackson's departure. Jackson, who earned ACC Player of the Year honors last season, left school to enter the NBA draft after he helped lead UNC to its sixth NCAA championship in early April.

Johnson missed most of his freshman season at Pitt due to injury, and he received a medical redshirt. He has two years of college eligibility remaining. Johnson provided a memorable performance at UNC last January, when he scored 24 points against the Tar Heels in UNC's 80-78 victory against Pitt.

“We are excited to have Cameron and his family join our program,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “He has proven he can do the job both on the court and in the classroom. He is accomplished in both areas.

“The young man went through a demanding process to get to North Carolina. We are happy to have someone join our program who wanted to be with us so badly. I look forward to helping him improve as a player and watching the impact he has on our program.”