On Thursday, dreams were further fulfilled for 60 college basketball players who were deemed ready for the next level of play. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill saw two of their former players join this list. Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige were standout seniors for the Heels, who helped guide their team to the national championship game of the 2015-2106 season. Both players will be remembered at the university by their jerseys being hung in the rafters, which will put them in the historical company of former Heels such as Michael Jordan, Tyler Hansbrough and Vince Carter. Like those three, both Johnson and Paige got to hear the league commissioner call their names on the draft stage.
Brice Johnson, a 6’10”, 230-pound power forward from South Carolina, was selected 25th in the draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Johnson’s athletic honors include first team All-American, All-ACC, ACC All-Defensive team and All-Final Four. He is certainly a player with a ton of upside, after coming off of an improved season where he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. Johnson has an incredible ability to bounce around the rim for rebounds, blocks and dunks, which astounded fans and opposing teams alike throughout his college career. The Clippers roster features big men Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and that could prove useful for Johnson as he will learn from them and grow as a player. Johnson will also be playing alongside NBA veteran point guard Chris Paul, whom he reportedly said is the player he would like to play alongside most in his first season.
With the 55th pick of the NBA draft, the Brooklyn Nets selected Marcus Paige. Paige is the 6’2”, 175-pounds senior guard out of Marion, Iowa who became the face of North Carolina basketball over his four years. His career had its fair share of ups and downs, but it’s needless to say that he handled every bit of adversity like a true champion. Paige battled injuries that docked him from playing time in his junior and senior seasons, which also seemed to cause a bit of a shooting slump throughout his senior season. Nonetheless, he came out of every issue stronger and finished the season by making the most incredible shot of his career in the national championship game, which was sadly outdone on the final play by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins. The Nets traded Paige’s pick to the Utah Jazz, which means that Marcus will be joining the likes of Dante Exum, Trey Burke and Shelvin Mack. Playing around other young guards that he is likely familiar with should help his development into a solid NBA point guard.
Here is a great video, courtesy of the NBA, on Brice Johnson’s path to the NBA: