USA: Brian Johnson Spotlight

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Brian Johnson is one of the most skilled big men in attendance – and he's only 15 years old.

The 6-9 rising junior from Bishop O'Connell, who sports a full beard, learned earlier this week that he's been named a finalist for the USA Junior World Championship team. After just missing the cut here in Colorado Springs several weeks ago, Johnson was informed two days ago that because Texas-bound Brad Buckman had to back out, he'd been added to the list of 16 finalists.

And, again, he's only 15 years old -- the youngest player at this week's USA Youth Festival, born on Aug. 16, 1986.

Upon first glance, it's clear that Johnson is noticeably bigger than he was six months ago. He's up to 226 pounds, he said, thanks to strawberry protein shakes.

Meanwhile, the term "skilled" keeps coming up while watching Johnson.

"That's nothing new," said analyst Dave Telep. "Brian Johnson since his freshmen year, that's been the common theme when you see him play. Here's a kid whose basketball game developed much faster at an early age then the other kids in his class. What's interesting is that's what people said from day one, and continue to say it. Where you'd think others in his class would eventually catch up, his skill level still stands out among his peers."

Not to say there isn't still room for improvement, particularly on the offensive end where a more consistent mid-range shot is the final tool he needs.

"Once he gets that jumper down, look out," commented Basketball America's Michael Kruse from the sidelines.

"I'm looking forward to working on my jumpshot and inside post moves this summer," Johnson said, acknowledging the aspects of his game that can be enhanced.

And, according to the media guide, Johnson "enjoys sleeping when he is away from the court." When asked about it, he provided a justifiable answer.

"All I really do is play basketball," he said. "There's no time for anything else other than basketball."

As for his school list, that remains the same as it's been for the last few months.

"Carolina might be my school," he said. "They're my first choice, and then Maryland and Florida."

Johnson said the aura of UNC hoops is what appeals to him the most.

"The atmosphere. I love it at Carolina," he said. "There's something about Carolina that's different than the other schools."

In light of the rising juniors who are already making commitments, will Johnson aim to make a decision soon?

"No, I'm going to wait until the end of my junior year," he said.

So, for now, it's just basketball, sleep and strawberry protein shakes for the 15-year-old phenom.

Note: Johnson will attend the Nike Camp next week, but now will miss the Peach Jam because of the Junior World Championship Trials in Miami, Fla.

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