Two days after announcing he would finish his college basketball career at North Carolina, graduate transfer Cameron Johnson has received clearance to play for the Tar Heels immediately. Johnson’s father told the Associated Press on Thursday that his son had been released without restrictions by his former school, Pittsburgh, Shortly thereafter, Pittsburgh issued a statement granting the 6-foot-8 forward his full release while wishing him “the very best as he pursues his graduate degree.” Thursday’s developments end a contentious battle in which the Panthers tried to force Johnson into sitting out a year before being allowed to play at UNC. Under NCAA rules, transfers that have already received their undergraduate degree are allowed to compete for their new school right away. Johnson, who sat out his first college season as a medical redshirt, earned his diploma in April after just three years. Pitt, however, refused to grant him his release, citing an internal policy that restricts transfers to another conference school or an opponent on the following season’s schedule. Two years ago, UNC allowed football player T.J. Thorpe to transfer to ACC rival Virginia under similar circumstances without restrictions. Johnson issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday, scolding Pitt for misinterpreting the NCAA rule by holding up his release. The school ultimately relented, according to its release, after receiving “an official interpretation of the rules regarding graduate transfers” from the NCAA. “Given this NCAA interpretation, we have decided to take a less restrictive approach and grant Cameron Johnson the opportunity to transfer to another ACC school with immediate eligibility for competition,” the statement reads. “We were proud to have Cameron as a student-athlete and are now proud to have him as a graduate of our institution.” Johnson averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range at Pittsburgh last season and would fit right in as an experienced, athletic 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. Johnson will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
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