It took Brice Johnson some doing to find his North Carolina Tar Heels ball cap Wednesday evening.

At first, he did not even think he had it with him. He wondered aloud: Did he bring it? With that, he excused himself, ducking into the Edisto High School locker room - yes, literally, at just under 6-10, he had to duck slightly going through the doorway - to fish around his locker.

In the circus that has become the time from which a prep athlete is recognized as a blue-chip prospect to the time said athlete announces where he/she will attend college, Johnson stands out as a bit old school.

No big press conferences. No TV crews. Obviously, no hat games.

Emerging from the Cougars' locker room, Tar Heels cap in hand, Johnson offered a wide smile.

Sure, he left a little intrigue heading into Wednesday morning. Tuesday night, he promised he would decide where he would play his collegiate basketball, North Carolina or Florida. But the clues left little mystery.

He only had one ball cap with him.

The decision

A shot-blocking, athletic big man, Johnson is ranked as the 49th-best player in the Rivals top 150.

His list of scholarship offers includes a who's who of college hoops. Billy Donovan worked hard to get him, making the trek from Gainesville to Cordova several times to entice the big man. N.C. State, Ohio State, Connecticut, Clemson and Baylor were also on the list of offers.

The Tar Heels' offer came in July following a torrid summer for Johnson that saw him show up and show out at several of the country's top AAU tournaments, including the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta.

With so many options, Johnson could have gone the route of a Lebron James, held a press conference and made his selection, and nobody would have said a thing. What James earned so much hate for has become a fairly standard affair - mostly at local levels but more and more so on a national level - for high-profile prep athletes looking to make a splash with their announcement.

Johnson went a different route. He did not want all the fanfare. So, the old soul went about letting his college choice be known in a very new school, yet subtle, way.

He announced it on Facebook and Twitter. At 9:01 a.m. Wednesday, Johnson tweeted, "I will be a UNC Tar Heel."

He was surrounded by his business class, which consists of all of nine students.

The press

Holding up a hand, thumb and index finger spread ever so apart to illustrate his point, Johnson said the Tar Heels won out over the Gators by just a hair.

In the process of making his decision, Johnson, who had 1,511 Facebook friends Wednesday evening, estimated he added between 600 and 800 new social media friends. Most are fans who were anticipating his announcement.

For the record, The Times and Democrat has 13,000 print subscribers. With multiple readers per edition, that translates into several thousand more sets of eyes that see the paper each day. On the web, 20,000 people visit TheTandD.com each day. We are on Facebook and Twitter too.

Just saying, Brice.

Just a kid and his van

So Johnson did not want the media hoopla. Sucked for us. But he was plenty gracious with his time Wednesday evening.

And he was plenty excited about the opportunities ahead of him as a Tar Heel. And, oh yeah, he believes Edisto, which has been down the past couple of seasons, is poised to do pretty well this year.

And as much as he enjoyed talking hoops, the 195-pounder was just as eager to talk about the fare at the Brown Derby. His favorite: turkey wings, but the pork chops are pretty good, too.

Don't worry North Carolina fans. He is a cross country runner on the side who promises he is not about to morph into Eddy Curry anytime soon. Two-thirty is the cutoff.

Wednesday morning, Johnson did what most hoopsters dream about. He accepted a scholarship offer to play for one of the most storied basketball programs in the country. He managed to stay about as far away from the spotlight as possible when pulling off such a move.

He capped off his big day at school by hopping in his minivan and heading down to watch the Edisto football team wrap up practice. Yes, his minivan. Hard to be any more non-top-rated-prospect-like.

No question, North Carolina got a different type of player Wednesday. But that might be the most special thing about what Johnson brings to the table.

 

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