NGC: Saturday Notebook

PORTLAND - A couple of North Carolina targets were the top dogs in Saturday's action at the Nike Global Challenge.

CAROLINA COURTING YOUNG CANADIAN

Andrew Wiggins is just 16 years old and is three years away from graduating high school. He's also one of the best players in North America. On Saturday at the Nike Global Challenge 6-7, 190-pounder from Toronto was one of the top two players to step on the floor at Liberty High School.

Wiggins paced Canada to a fourth quarter surge from the Canadians to put away the USA East team. Wiggins scored 21 points, hit three big three-pointers, grabbed five rebounds and put the U.S. on its heels with his powerful drives to the rim. Only Jabari Parker had a better day at the office than Wiggins.

The pecking order of the class of 2014 is still being determined but Wiggins - who will attend Huntington Prep (WVa.) is already getting chatter as the top dog in his class.

"It's motivating," Wiggins said. "It really is. It makes you want to play harder. I'm humbled by that and I'm blessed to have an opportunity to play against the best players in the world. If people want to say I'm good, that's their opinion but I know I have to keep working and keep getting better."

Wiggins said he's using the summer to improve his game and prep for the high school season.

"I'm trying to ask as many questions as I can," Wiggins said. "I want to become a better passer and a better scorer. I want to become a better defender. Those things I can get better at so I try to never let my work ethic slip."

The Tar Heels have been proactive with Wiggins. UNC has played host to the young Canadian talent already.

"I visited North Carolina and saw them practice," Wiggins said. "That was a great experience to watch the best players play and practice. It was a good sampling of what to expect when I get to college."

THE RISE OF BRICE JOHNSON

Rewind to June and throw the name Brice Johnson around in recruiting circles and you'd probably get a response similar to this:

"He's a good player," they would say.

Simple, direct and nothing to get you too excited. That tune has certainly changed since the 2012 power forward from South Carolina exploded at the Peach Jam in July.

One former SEC coach tells a story about Johnson that several other coaches have probably said this summer, too.

"Three years ago, (his AAU coach) was telling me about him and saying I needed to get involved with him," the coach said. "I wasn't so sure. He was really skinny, not really that good and probably not good enough to invest too much time into him. So I'm at the Peach Jam and watching the kid blow up. I never thought I'd see this. Now you look at him and you wonder when does he stop getting better? It's happening so fast."

You could compare Johnson's rise to Jeremy Lamb's rise three summers ago. Lamb wasn't even a full-time starter his junior year in high school but used the Peach Jam to emerge as one of premiere prospects in the country. Johnson is going down a similar route.

Johnson held offers from the state schools in South Carolina but now he's got an offer from North Carolina.

On Saturday, he proved that point against Canada. In the first three quarters of the game, he was going right at 7-foot-3 Xavier bound center Sim Bhullar. Johnson was, for that stretch, the best player on the floor.

NEWS & NOTES FROM SATURDAY

UNC commitment Marcus Paige paired up with UCLA commitment Dominic Artis in what will probably be the best match-up of American point guards. Paige used his quickness to blow by defenders and get to the rim. He finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting. In fact, he was probably the quickest guard to the rim on Saturday.

Defensively, UNC commitment J.P. Tokoto did a fine job on the USA West guards. He bothered Duke bound guard Rasheed Sulaimon (2-8 FG). Tokoto finished with five steals, too.

Texas forward Julius Randle (2013) was outstanding in defeat, scoring 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had five assists and three blocks. No one had a better statistical game on Saturday than him.


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