North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson has grown accustomed to the “What took you so long?’ question.
NBA executives asked the graduate student, who turned 23 in March, about his late-bloomer reputation constantly during job interviews at the draft combine. So he was well-practiced with the answer by the time he met with media late Friday afternoon.
“They always ask me a little bit about my age and what comes along with that. I just explain that I’ve taken a different route,” Johnson said. “Growing up, in high school, my recruiting was a little different than most (NBA prospects).
“I’ve blossomed into what I’ve become — and what I will become — a little later than some other people.”
A 6-foot-7 forward, Johnson spent the past two seasons in Chapel Hill after the previous three at Pittsburgh. He received a medical redshirt for the 2014-15 season after injury limited him to eight games. Then, he became a graduate transfer to North Carolina in the summer of 2017 after earning his degree in communications.
All that behind him, he hopes to be a first-round pick in the June 20 draft. A small forward who could possible play some small-ball power forward at the next level, Johnson has a skill that is always in demand: shooting. He was 40.5 percent from the college 3-point line for his career.
So the NBA star he models himself after makes abundant sense.
“The player I study the most is (Golden State Warriors shooting guard) Klay Thompson, with his footwork and the way he gets shots up, the way he scores without too many dribbles,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I have a long way to go to catch him. He’s the best.”
Johnson he knows he needs to improve as a ballhandler and defender. As to that age question, he keeps reminding teams that maturity will make him a low-maintenance rookie.
“Some of these younger guys, 18 or 19 years old, would be going out and living on their own for the first time,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’d (better) handle a move to another city and handle what the NBA throws at you.”
Jayhawks’ Dotson undecided
Kansas point guard Devon Dotson, who played at Charlotte’s Providence Day School, has a big decision whether to stay in the NBA draft. The current rules give him the time and advice to make a more informed choice.
Dotson has three seasons of college eligibility left, after averaging 12.3 points and 3.5 assists for the Jayhawks. NCAA rules now give him until May 29 to make a decision (a larger window than years ago) and allow him to consult with an agent without risking his remaining college eligibility.
That’s making for an ordered process: Dotson is participating in the draft combine this week, then has workouts scheduled with the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, with possibly more to come. His agent is setting up a group workout in California later this month before the deadline to pull out of the draft and retain eligibility.
If Dotson chooses to return to Kansas, he at minimum can use this experience as a dress rehearsal for when he stays in the draft in later years.
“I feel like it’s a win-win; you can’t lose anything,” by entering the draft at least temporarily, he said. “Just looking at the process and going day-by-day.”
Dotson played at Providence Day with Tennessee’s Grant Williams, who has chosen to stay in the draft after graduating in three years.
“It’s fun, going back to the high school days,” Dotson said of hanging out with Williams again. “Sophomore year winning a state championship with him.”
Here and there
Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke said Thursday his first workout will be with the Charlotte Hornets, which probably means early next week at Spectrum Center. Two other names to expect in Charlotte between now and the draft: Maryland center Bruno Fernando and Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford. ...
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said he would anticipate as many as 25 total workouts before draft night. In addition to the 12th pick in the first round, the Hornets have two picks in the second round: the 36th overall pick (originally the Washington Wizards’ pick) and the 52nd pick (originally the Oklahoma City Thunder’s). The Hornets’ own second-round pick — 44th overall — goes to the Atlanta Hawks as part of last June’s trade for Devonte Graham’s draft rights.