Scott Phillips/Inside Carolina

UNC's Brice Johnson Has More to Prove

After an All-American senior season, Brice Johnson is focused on proving his value to NBA teams in advance of the draft.

CHICAGO -- Brice Johnson isn't slowing down.

The former North Carolina forward capped off a First Team All-America season with a national title game appearance, and then immediately shifted to NBA Draft preparations.

After a month of training, Johnson attended the NBA Draft Combine, participating in athletic testing and interviews.

Johnson said he's spoken to 14 NBA teams, as he could remember interviews with Charlotte, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Phoenix, San Antonio and both Los Angeles teams.

"It's been great. Just being myself. I don't have anything to hide from anyone. I'm just being myself and telling them how it is," Johnson said of the interviews.

"Just [answering] all of the questions that they have. People have been saying I'm lazy and stuff so I'm just trying to prove to them that I'm not. I think the proof's in the pudding with what I did this year. I'm not lazy, I'm just a laid-back type of guy. When it's time to play and get to work, I get my work done."

Next up are individual workouts for prospective teams. Johnson wants to prove that he's a more well-rounded forward than people might have given him credit for during his time at North Carolina.

"Just being able to step away from the basket. A lot of teams see me play around the basket or with my back to the basket and they just think I dunk the ball," Johnson said. "But I can step away from the basket and knock down the 15-foot jumper if I needed to. In my workouts with the teams I'll probably go out there and show them that I can really shoot the ball because I think that's the one question they have about me: whether I can shoot it or not."

Johnson, who weighed in at 209 pounds (21 pounds under what he weighed heading into his senior season, according to UNC), is looking at himself as more of a face-up guy, since many teams have noted his lack of weight for NBA post play. This means that Johnson has been working hard on the skill component of his game.

"[I'm] working on my handle a little bit. I might have to handle the ball for a little bit. A lot of stretch fours handle the ball these days with the evolution of the NBA," Johnson said. "Just working on facing up. A guy my size I probably won't be able to play with my back to the basket. I'll probably have to face up on a guy and make a move."

Johnson feels that his four years of college basketball at North Carolina have helped prepare him for the NBA. The school produces so many pro-caliber players that Johnson has seen the benefit of talking to future pros to get a feel for how they got to be in their position.

"It prepares me a great deal," Johnson said of North Carolina. "There's such a rich tradition of guys going to the NBA and just being in that environment. Having those guys tell us their experiences and what it takes to get there, it really helps you in the long run when you want to work on your game and work in the gym. So you hear those guys say, 'yeah, [North Carolina is] a great place to be but you have to put in the work.'"

Having relationships with pros like Marvin Williams, Brendan Haywood, Sean May and Raymond Felton has helped Johnson over the last few years, but he's trying to model his own NBA game after a pair of players who bring different things to the table.

"Currently I probably model my game after Lamarcus Aldridge or Serge Ibaka," Johnson said. "For Serge, just his defensive intensity with blocking shots and stuff. On the offensive end he can also score. And with Lamarcus, he can score with his back to the basket and I can also do things like that."

The next month is pivotal for Johnson as he tries to lay the groundwork for his future career. At the moment, Johnson seems relaxed and prepared for anything that happens on his pro journey.

"Just being here, just taking it all in. It's a humbling experience just to be here so I'm not going to take it for granted. I'm just soaking it all in," Johnson said.


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