Former Pitt guard Cameron Johnson was selected with the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night. Although he was initially selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Johnson was then traded to the Phoenix Suns in accordance with an agreement between the two teams.
The 6’9” sharpshooter is the first player associated with Pitt to go in the first round of the NBA draft since Steven Adams, and like Adams, his relationship with the program can be described as somewhat complicated.
Johnson began his college career with Pitt in 2014 after catching the attention of then-Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon. At the time, he was a three-star recruit and his only other reported offer was from Rice. With the Panthers, he earned a reputation as a reliable shooter, as he shot 39.9 percent from three-point range over his three years in Pittsburgh. He also became a notable offensive threat, and by 2017, he ranked third on the team in scoring.
However, when Dixon left the team for TCU and Kevin Stallings was brought in from Vanderbilt to replace him, the situation in Pittsburgh took a turn for the worse. As a result, Johnson, who had met his graduation requirements in three years, opted to transfer to North Carolina after enduring the first year of the Stallings era.
Pitt initially wanted Johnson to sit out for one season after transferring, but the school’s insistence on adhering to that policy drew negative attention from the national media. As a result, Pitt granted Johnson the right to play immediately at ACC rival North Carolina.
Johnson spent the final two years of his collegiate career in Chapel Hill, where he started 56 games and took his play to a new level. As a Tar Heel, he averaged 15.0 points per game, nearly doubling his output at Pitt, which was 8.0 points per game. He also led the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game in the 2018-19 season, which North Carolina finished as the third-ranked team in the AP poll.
Earlier this week, Johnson was spotted on Pitt’s campus with his brother Donovan Johnson, who holds an offer from Pitt and has expressed serious interest in playing for his hometown school. The younger of the two brothers has said that there are no hard feelings over Pitt’s handling of his brother’s situation during Stallings’ tenure.
Upon joining the Suns, Johnson will become the third former Pitt player currently active in the NBA, as Adams is a standout on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster and Brad Wanamaker is a member of the Boston Celtics.