Sean Kane

2019 NBA draft profile: UNC's Cameron Johnson is big-time shooter, can help Sixers

2019 NBA draft profile: UNC's Cameron Johnson is big-time shooter, can help Sixers

Position: Guard

Height: 6-9

Weight: 210

School: North Carolina

Cameron Johnson’s draft stock was bolstered significantly by an outstanding senior season at North Carolina. Johnson averaged 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 45.7 percent from three-point range in 36 games for the Tar Heels. He was a driving force for one of the best teams in the country and finished the season as a First Team All-ACC selection.

It’s not hyperbole to suggest Johnson is the best shooter in this draft. That 45.7 three-point success rate came on nearly six attempts per game. He is a big-time shooter who uses his 6-9 frame to his advantage on the perimeter.

Johnson played five seasons of college basketball — three at Pittsburgh and two at North Carolina. He was granted a medical redshirt at Pitt as a freshman before playing two seasons for the Panthers. He graduated in three years from Pitt then used his final two years of eligibility at North Carolina. 

He enters the draft at 23 years old. While some NBA executives may view his advanced age as a drawback, it’s also fair to label him as an experienced, mature prospect ready to step in and contribute immediately at the NBA level.

Strengths

In a word, shooting. It’s what Johnson does best and it's a skill that is valued tremendously in the NBA. Johnson not only led the ACC in three-point shooting, he was also the top long-range marksman in all of the Power 5 conferences.

Johnson profiles as a terrific complementary piece on the offensive end of the floor. He’ll be able to play off penetrators and knock down open jumpers. His size and quick release will only enhance his shooting ability in the professional game.

His basketball IQ and work ethic also stand out. He has a great understanding of the game after playing five seasons of high-level college basketball. Johnson was a late bloomer in high school and in college — Pitt was the only major program that recruited him. He worked his way from unheralded prospect to one of the best players in the country over the span of five years.

Weaknesses

Athleticism and all-around defensive ability top this list. The majority of his scoring in college was on the perimeter. He is not an explosive finisher at the rim and doesn’t embrace contact when driving to the basket. He averaged just two free throw attempts per game during his college career.

It will be a tall order for Johnson to guard the top wing players in the NBA because of his lack of elite foot speed. He’ll need to become more physical on the defensive end.

To his credit, he tested well at the combine. But his athleticism — particularly on the defensive end — will be worth monitoring as he enters the NBA.

Fit

Johnson would be a tremendous fit for the Sixers. They need shooters and that’s what he does best. Johnson would space the floor for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and benefit greatly from Simmons’ court vision and overall passing ability. He would get a ton of open looks on the perimeter playing with Embiid and Simmons.

Johnson is mature enough to accept his role. He was a star last season at North Carolina but would be a member of the Sixers' supporting cast. At 23, he would also be ready to contribute immediately for a team with visions of winning a championship.

If he is still on the board when the Sixers are making the 24th pick, don’t be surprised to hear Johnson’s name called.

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Villanova's X-factors, chances at history in 2019 NCAA Tournament

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USA Today Images

Villanova's X-factors, chances at history in 2019 NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament tips off Tuesday night with the start of the First Four in Dayton. There are a couple prominent Big 5 storylines as college basketball takes center stage for the next three weeks. Namely, Villanova is trying to do something that hasn't been done in 44 years: win three national championships in the span of four years.

Then there's Temple's Fran Dunphy coaching in his 17th and final NCAA Tournament before stepping down at the end of the season.

Here's a breakdown of what lies ahead for the local teams.

Can Villanova make history?

The Wildcats are back in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time in the last 15 years under Jay Wright. They arrive with plenty of momentum after winning their third straight Big East Tournament last week at Madison Square Garden. Villanova is riding a ridiculous wave of postseason success — since the 2016 season, the Wildcats have a 26-2 record in Big East and NCAA Tournament competition.

Now they set out to win a third national championship in the last four years. That hasn't been done since the UCLA dynasty in the mid-1970s.

Villanova is flying under the radar compared to previous years in terms of contending for a national title. The Wildcats are the 6-seed in the South Region and will play St. Mary's on Thursday night in Hartford, CT. St. Mary's comes into play with a 22-11 record after a shocking win over then-No. 1 Gonzaga in the WCC championship game last week.

Villanova is battle-tested and has one of the premiere coaches in the country. The Wildcats are led by two terrific seniors in Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, two guys with tons of NCAA Tournament experience. Those are the positives.

The biggest negative? Villanova's lack of depth. Wright's rotation essentially shrunk to six players during the Big East Tournament.

Sophomore Jermaine Samuels and freshman Saddiq Bey are the X-factors. Both Samuels and Bey have had their moments this season and were critical to Villanova's success last week. If Samuels and Bey can step up to complement Booth and Paschall, the Wildcats will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

Fran Dunphy's last stand

Dunphy has pretty much done it all during a remarkable career. A standout player at La Salle, he received a master's degree from Villanova and has served as the head coach at both Penn and Temple. His "Mr. Big 5" nickname is well deserved.

He had tremendous success during his 17 seasons at Penn, winning nine Ivy League titles and going to nine NCAA Tournaments. Dunphy carried that success over to Temple, winning three straight Atlantic 10 Tournaments from 2008 to 2010. He has led the Owls to eight NCAA Tournaments during his 13 seasons as head coach.

The one thing missing from Dunphy's resume is success on the sport's biggest stage. He has a 3-16 career record in the NCAA Tournament. Dunphy's Owls will try to improve that record on Tuesday night against a Belmont team that won 26 games this season.

Dunphy is a great coach, terrific man and has been a wonderful ambassador for college basketball. It would be a great story if Temple sends him out with a nice run in this NCAA Tournament.

Phil Martelli out as St. Joe's head coach after 24 years

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AP Images

Phil Martelli out as St. Joe's head coach after 24 years

It's the end of an era on Hawk Hill. After 24 seasons, Phil Martelli is out as the men's basketball coach at St. Joseph's University. 

The Hawks finished the 2018-19 season with a 14-19 record, losing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals last Friday in Brooklyn.

"Following a comprehensive review of the men's basketball program, I have decided to make a change in the leadership of the program. The decision was not an easy one, but I believe it is the right one - for both the men's basketball program and the institution as a whole," St. Joseph's athletics director Jill Bodensteiner said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Martelli took over as St. Joseph's head coach in 1995. He compiled a 444-328 record in 24 seasons and won six A-10 regular season championships, three A-10 Tournament titles and guided the Hawks to seven NCAA Tournament appearances. He is the winningest coach at a school known for producing coaching legends such as Jack Ramsey and Jim Lynam. However the St. Joseph's program slipped in recent years. Following a 28-win season in 2016, the Hawks had a 41-55 record over the last three years. 

Martelli led St. Joseph's on a tremendous five-year run from 2000-05, winning five straight A-10 regular season championships and appearing in three NCAA Tournaments over that span.  The 2004 season was the high point. Led by national player of the year Jameer Nelson, the Hawks completed a perfect 27-0 regular season and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to Oklahoma State in the final seconds. Martelli was named the national coach of the year following that 2004 season. But the Hawks have won just one NCAA Tournament game since 2004.

"Basketball is an important strategic asset for the University," said Bodensteiner in her statement. "We have a storied history, and we move forward with the desire and intent to build upon that history, develop a sustained and consistent culture of excellence, and compete for NCAA tournament appearances and conference championships every year." Martelli's dismissal comes during a changing of the guard across the Big 5. Temple's Fran Dunphy will step down at the end of this season following 30 years as a head coach at Temple and Penn. Ashley Howard just completed his first season at La Salle.