Grad transfer Johnson commits to UNC, status for next season still unknown

Johnsons former school, Pittsburgh, is attempting to restrict the 6-foot-8 juniors ability to transfer to an ACC rival without penalty

Bob Donnan—USA Today Sports
Graduate transferCameron Johnson fouls his future UNC teammate Joel Berry during the Panthers' loss to the Tar Heels last Jan. 23

Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson has decided to continue his college basketball career at North Carolina. When he’ll be able to play for the Tar Heels still isn’t as certain. The 6-foot-8 forward, who played his first two seasons at Pittsburgh, should be eligible immediately under NCAA rules because he earned his undergraduate degree before leaving his former school. But the Panthers are attempting to restrict his ability to transfer to an ACC rival by forcing him to sit out a year. Johnson announced his decision to join the Tar Heels on Tuesday in a lengthy prepared statement in which he was highly critical of Pittsburgh’s handling of his situation. “I started this process believing that having graduated from Pitt, I should have instantly been granted an unconditional release,” he wrote. “I feel that should be available to any student-athlete who earns their degree. Unfortunately, Pitt has continued to try and block my wish to attend North Carolina.”Johnson and his family have been fighting the restriction since he announced his decision to transfer.The redshirt junior has indicated that UNC will now join the effort to help him obtain a waiver and play for the Tar Heels in 2017-18.Shortly after Johnson released his statement claiming that Pittsburgh misinterpreted NCAA rules by placing restrictions on his graduate transfer, the school issued a response to the situation.”The University of Pittsburgh followed the NCAA processes and our institutional policies as they are written,” the statement reads. “The NCAA is currently evaluating the graduate transfer rule and its application to this situation. We are awaiting their response.”Johnson averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists at Pittsburgh last season and would fit right in as an athletic veteran replacement for ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. His presence would also help strengthen a frontcourt weakened by the unexpected departure of freshman Tony Bradley to the NBA draft. The Tar Heels got a glimpse of his potential last season when Johnson went 6 for 9 from 3-point range on his way to 24 points in Pitt’s 80-78 loss to UNC at the Smith Center on Jan. 31.Here is Johnson’s statement in its entirety:”My name is Cameron Johnson and I am a proud graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. I was a member of the Panther basketball team for three seasons (I sat out one year due to injury) but earned my degree in just three years this spring.”I grew up less than 20 miles from Pitt’s campus. My dad played basketball at Pitt. I love the city of Pittsburgh, the students and faculty and, of course, the fans in the Zoo, but for a number of reasons I wish to continue my studies as a graduate student and play the final two years of my college basketball eligibility at another university.”I have spent the last two months looking at schools and the one that fits my academic and basketball interests the most is the University of North Carolina.”Unfortunately, Pitt has attempted to block me from going to an ACC school, or even having contact with one, since I first announced my intention to transfer following my graduation. After requesting, in writing, permission to be released to ACC schools and being denied by the Pitt Athletic Department, I asked for a hearing, per my right as a student-athlete, from an outside faculty committee.”Shortly following this May 2nd hearing, Pitt’s acting Faculty Athletics Representative, Dr. James J. Irrgang, informed me via letter dated May 4th that he was granting me permission to contact other ACC schools and, “immediately receive athletically related financial aid if you decide to transfer to an ACC institution.” Dr. Irrgang wrote this decision was based on,”the combination of your academic achievement of graduating Summa Cum Laude within three years of your initial full time enrollment and the exceptional service that you have provided to the community during your tenure at Pitt.” Though they granted me permission to contact an ACC school, they stated I must “serve a year of residence prior to being eligible for competition, per NCAA legislation.””Twenty-four days after receiving permission from the faculty committee to attend an ACC school, I visited North Carolina on my final official visit (May 29). A week after this visit, I informed Coach Williams that I was committing to North Carolina.”On June 2nd, I was informed that the NCAA had determined that Pitt’s attempt to make me “serve a year of residence prior to being eligible for competition” does not apply