Johnson concludes well-traveled summer

Even offers from Maryland and Florida haven't changed Brian Johnson's mind. The Bishop O'Connell (Va.) rising junior, who played sparingly as the youngest player on the USA Junior men's basketball team last month, still favors North Carolina.

"I want to go to Carolina and I think I'm going to go," said the 6-9, 240-pound power forward. "I'm just not ready to say I'm ready to go just yet. It's just me. But most likely I'll be going to Carolina."

Johnson said the UNC staff offered at the beginning of last season. However, he is also looking at the Gators and Terps, along with Duke.

"I want to check the other schools out," added Johnson, who also said that Duke has offered as well. "But North Carolina's still number one on my list."

Johnson returned home from Venezuela last week after playing a limited role on the United States' disappointing bronze-winning team. He averaged 1.8 points and 2.2 rebounds while getting seven minutes per game. The loss to host Venezuela, which came in the semifinals, ended the Americans 24-game winning streak in the event.

"It was fun and I had a good time," Johnson said of the experience. "I hustled, got rebounds and even though I didn't get to play as much as I would have liked, when I got in I did my job."

"There are things I realize I need to work on," he added. "I could tell I was younger. The other guys know different parts of the game – different moves that I need to learn. I learned from everyone, but especially from Carmelo (Anthony) and Chris Bosh."

"We expected to win the gold, but it didn't turn out that way," Johnson said. "It just seemed like we fell apart at the end against Venezuela. We had a 15-point lead with five minutes left. They just came back."

Johnson returned and will work on his game in a pair of summer leagues, which will lead up to when school begins on Aug. 27. He has gained 25 pounds since the beginning of the summer.

"I've really improved my jump shot a lot and I've become much more aggressive," Johnson said. "I gained all the weight just from eating – and drinking shakes. At Nike camp, I was 230 and when I got home last week, I was 240."

Johnson, a 3.0 student who doesn't turn 16 until October, will take the SAT in the near future and that intimidates him far more than any opponent on the court.

"Some people don't believe it, but when I play basketball I don't get nervous," added Johnson, who averaged 17.5 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks for Joe Wootten's club as a sophomore. "I think that's the only time when I don't get nervous."

One of the keys Carolina has going for it is the fact that Johnson grew up in Laurinburg, N.C. – and moved to Virginia after the eighth grade.

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