Pitt freshman Cameron Johnson was an afterthought in coach Jamie Dixon’s recruiting strategy. A late bloomer who grew several inches his senior year at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Johnson, rail thin at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, was a redshirt candidate.
That changed when senior guard Cameron Wright suffered a broken left foot in September. Johnson’s value to the Panthers skyrocketed when junior forward Durand Johnson was suspended for the season Friday.
Suddenly, the freshman who plays small forward and shooting guard, has become a valuable teammate and a regular part of Dixon’s rotation entering Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against Samford at Petersen Events Center.
When Johnson signed in April, Dixon said his first thought was the swingman “might be a good redshirt guy (as a freshman).”
Over the summer, Cameron’s father, former Pitt player Gil Johnson, said his son, who averaged 27.8 points, could be redshirted because of the physicality of the college game.
After Johnson scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes in Pitt’s season-opening 78-45 victory over Niagara, Dixon didn’t hold back his praise.
“He’s too good to redshirt. He knows how to play,” Dixon said.
“We knew he was going to be a good player … (but) it’s faster than we thought. It’s good to see a kid with a no-star (recruiting) rating go down the road to being a very good player. And the road is right now.”
A member of the national honor society who played his first two years at Moon, Johnson received offers from several Ivy League schools including Columbia and Penn. He also received interest from Boston College, Stanford, Rice and Virginia before Pitt got involved.
“I feel as a team we need to step up,” said Johnson in describing his new role resulting from Durand Johnson’s suspension.
“He’s obviously a big part of our team. Everybody’s going to have to step up.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected]