Recruiting Update: Brian Johnson at BBC

MYRTLE BEACH, SC--<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s J.B. Cissell caught up with Brian Johnson, his Uncle Ron, his younger brother Forrest, and basketball guru Howard Garfinkel to keep you up to date on the latest with his recruitment.

Tell me about your North Carolina roots.

It started in Laurinburg, NC. It's about an hour and 30 minutes from here. I left in the eighth grade, when I was 13, to come up to [O'Connell High School] and play.

Did you grow up as a Carolina fan, having grown up in North Carolina?

Yeah, I love Carolina. That's my favorite school, but you can't always go by that. You have to look at different schools because that may not be the school for you. Just because you liked that school when you were younger doesn't mean that's the school you'll always love.

What factors are you looking at, in considering schools?

I'm looking at the basketball program too, but I'm looking at academics and what I'm going to major in--things like that.

What is your schedule for making a college decision--do you have that in mind yet?

Probably like at the end of my junior year or the beginning of my senior year.

It seems like more and more players are making decisions at an earlier point in their high school careers. Do you feel pressure to do that?

There's no pressure. I'm taking my time to make my decision.

When do you plan to take your official visits?

I'm going to take them over the summer and at the beginning of my senior year. I may take my first one in the springtime.

Who is on your list right now, of the colleges you are considering?

I only have five schools: Carolina, Duke, Florida, UCLA, and Maryland.

Do you have any particular order at this time?

Not really.

Do you still have relatives in North Carolina?

Yes, sir.

How many?

A lot. We started in Laurinburg, NC, and then a lot of us moved up to D.C. and the Maryland area.

Will that be a factor in your decision--where your family can see you play?

That's part of it, but it will really depend on the school and the program--what it can do for me and what I can do for the school.

Are you getting any pressure to play at a school in North Carolina because of your family?

I have a cousin who went to Carolina, and he wants me to go there, but it's no big deal.

I spoke to your Uncle Ron, and he said he was a big reason that you went to O'Connell. How did that happen?

My uncle knows [teammate] Freddy Stanback's father, so that's what started it off. Whatever school Freddy went to I was going to. He made the decision to go to O'Connell, so that's why I picked it.

Was that the only reason?

That was the only reason. But it's because it was a good school too.

Your uncle said that he felt like you would get better competition playing at O'Connell than you would have in North Carolina. Do you feel like that's the case?

I had great competition my freshman year playing against big guys. I thought it was hard, but now, in my junior year, things seem pretty easy. It gets harder every day.

What are the academics like there? Are they better than what you were getting in North Carolina?

Taking only four classes in middle school, and now getting used to seven classes each day and studying every night, I'm now getting used to that.

Do you think that will help prepare you for college?

Yes, sir. It will help out a lot. You look at a lot of kids in public schools who have the block schedule, and that doesn't really help out.

Your Uncle Ron seems to play a prominent role in your life. What sort of role does he play?

He just looks out for me. He shows me around the D.C. area, takes me to practice, and things like that. He looks out for me.

Does your father live at home?

Nah, he lives in North Carolina.

Do you see him much?

Not really. No.

Does your uncle play more of a father-figure role in your life than your father?

Yes, sir. He does.

Has your uncle always been a big part of your life?

Yes. Even when I was little, he used to come down from D.C. and take me everywhere and different things like that. I've always looked up to him.

Does it help that he's a police officer?

A little bit.

Is his military background rubbing off on you--does that give you some structure?

(Laughing) Nah, I'm still lazy.

Ronnie Ingram

Note: Mr. Ingram is Brian's Uncle (Brian's mother's brother) and is a police officer in the Washington, D.C. area.

Do you live in the area, and is that why you are able to see him play tonight?

I live in Washington, D.C., and [his grandmother] lives in Laurinburg, NC. I'm the uncle who arranged for him to come to Washington, D.C. to play basketball at Bishop O'Connell.

What went into that decision to move him?

I looked at the competition, and I wanted him to have more of a challenge and more of an opportunity and to play with some of the elite ball players. When I looked at the North Carolina area, I didn't see that. Being in D.C. I see a lot of the basketball players, and I thought he would have a chance to compete with kids who are above average.

I notice you are decked out in Carolina blue. Is that a coincidence?

(Grinning) The only thing I'm going to say is that they are in the top five. They are in the top five.

Do you have a preference?

Nah--whatever he likes. Whatever he does, I'll support him playing for anyone. I've been supporting him all his life. Like I said, I'm the one who arranged for him to come to D.C. to play. Whatever decision he makes, I'm right there--me and the family. We'll let him make his own decision, and we're right there for him.

Brian has told me that academics will play a part in his college decision. Was that part of the decision to go to O'Connell?

Yes. O'Connell, if you look back on it, is a blue-ribbon school--one of the best private schools in the nation. They are a program that gets an individual prepared for college. If you can maintain [grades] at O'Connell and play basketball, it shouldn't be a problem to maintain great academics in college.

Forrest Johnson

Note:Forrest is Brian's younger brother.

How old are you?

I'm seven.

What do you think about all of the attention that your brother gets for playing basketball?

He gets a lot.

He's becoming somewhat of a celebrity. Pretty amazing, huh?

Yes, it is.

Do you play basketball?

I just started.

Do you want to follow in your brother's footsteps?


Do you notice the college coaches watching him play?

Yes I do. It's amazing.

He has narrowed his list down to five colleges: Carolina, Duke, Maryland, UCLA, and Florida. Are you familiar with those schools?


It will be Brian's decision, but do you have a preference where he goes?


Do you get to watch them on TV?


You look pretty tall for seven years old. How tall are you?

Five feet.

Howard Garfinkel

Note: Mr. Garfinkel is a long-time basketball guru, who runs the famous Five-Star Basketball Camp.

What is your impression of Brian Johnson?

This is the first time I've ever seen him play--the last two nights. Let me compare him to someone. I never compare players, one to another, but people always ask me "How did Moses Malone play when he was a high school junior and senior?" and I would describe him.

I'm going to compare this kid to one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Moses Malone. The difference is that Moses blocked more shots. Moses had a little more athletic ability and range, and he blocked [more] shots. But the reason's they are similar are that this kid gets every rebound--he's a human rebounding machine, a "Windex man"--he takes off no possessions, plays every possession to the hilt, runs the floor like a Derby winner.

He's one of the best juniors, if not the best junior, in the country. I haven't seen the rest of the country, but I don't have to. He's an exceptional young player--one of my favorite players in years. I don't know him from Adam. He's never met me or been to my [Five-Star] Camp. That's my opinion.

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