Coach: Johnson turned away USC for better title chance

ashain@thestate.comOctober 12, 2011 

Brice Johnson

South Carolina's top-rated basketball recruit scratched the Gamecocks from his list because he thought he had better chances at a national title and the pros at other schools, his AAU coach said today.

Brice Johnson, a 6-foot-9 Orangeburg County native, tweeted Tuesday that his final choices were UNC, N.C. State, Florida and Clemson. He later told a website that the Tar Heels and Gators -- which have won four of the past seven national championships -- were his front-runners.

South Carolina was among the first colleges to recruit Johnson, but the forward garnered attention from more out-of-state programs after a strong showing at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta this summer. North Carolina, Connecticut, Ohio State and St. John's were among those making scholarship offers after the event.

USC remained in his final group of five schools. But as he nears choosing a school this month, Johnson thought the Gamecocks were not a good fit, said Dion Bethea, coach of the South Carolina Ravens AAU team.

"He felt like he could not see himself in that style of play," Bethea said. "Brice felt his chances of getting to a national championship were greater elsewhere. He's also looking at his future in the pros."

Bethea praised the efforts by the USC coaching staff for working hard to woo Johnson. Coach Darrin Horn reportedly was the first person to see him when the recruit contact period began last month. But programs with longer histories of winning became interested Johnson, Bethea said.

In their search for a big man, the Gamecocks are working to lure 6-foot-9 Ty Haughton from Miami, who visited campus last month. Haughton also is looking at Alabama, Connecticut, Virginia Tech and Marshall.

USC has two commitments for next season -- Jacksonville, Fla., high school teammates Carlos Morris, a 6-foot-5 forward, and Ian Baker, a 6-foot-1 guard.

The team has 10 scholarship players this year and has only one senior, forward Malik Cooke.

Meanwhile, Johnson will visit Clemson this weekend or next, Bethea said. He will choose a school after this last campus visit, the coach said. Johnson has already been to the other schools on his final list.

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