During his first few weeks at North Carolina Brice Johnson thought about leaving. The workouts were too difficult, the demands too much.
He thought about going back home to Orangeburg, S.C. Four years later, Johnson on Thursday night heard his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft.
The Los Angeles Clippers selected Johnson with the 25th overall pick. For Johnson, it's the continuation of a basketball journey that began in his small South Carolina hometown.
It hasn’t always been easy for Johnson. After losing his mother to cancer, he played for his father, Herman, in high school.
Johnson was considered a major college prospect but he wasn’t among the most heralded members of senior class. He arrived at UNC a lanky and shy, a player whose game lacked refinement.
Johnson during his first three seasons at UNC provided glimpses of his potential. Still, those moments were fleeting, going as quickly as they arrived. UNC coach Roy Williams constantly urged Johnson to provide more – more hustle, more energy. More heart.
That didn't change during Johnson's senior season. Williams still stayed on him. Johnson's production changed plenty, though. He averaged 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and earned consensus All-American honors while he helped lead the Tar Heels to the national championship game.
The first round of the draft turned into an exercise in unpredictability. Johnson going at No. 25 was among the few selections that went as expected, given that's about where he'd been projected leading into the draft.
And yet if there was a surprise with Johnson's draft position, it might have been that it wasn't higher. Johnson, who became the 47th UNC player to be picked in the first round, faced questions entering Thursday night – especially about his ability to make the outside shot – but he was perhaps among the most proven commodities in the draft.
Four years after he doubted whether he'd make it in college, Johnson now begins his journey as a pro.