“The day I die, I’ll probably send a message to Brice: ‘You can do more.’” -Roy Williams
In his 30 years of coaching, Roy Williams has pushed a lot of players to be great. When Jeff Graves at Kansas fell out of shape following a foot injury, Roy ran laps with him every day to help him shed the weight. When Kennedy Meeks arrived on campus as a freshman looking like Jabba the Hutt Jr., Roy stuck with him and over four years helped mold him into the starting center of a National Championship team. Countless players that have played for Roy talk of how he has driven them to be better.
But NO ONE was ever pushed harder by Roy than Brice Johnson. When interviewed before the 2016 Final Four, Brice admitted that he expected to “be a good player, have a nice career, maybe play overseas or something.” Roy had other plans. For four years, he coaxed, berated, praised, and criticized Brice into becoming not a good, but a great player. Each year, Brice came closer to that goal. As a freshman, he was a solid offensive contributor off the bench. As a sophomore, he was an excellent sixth man. As a junior, he was a strong starter on a Sweet 16 team.
And on January 4th, 2016 in Tallahassee, he became an All-American. All you need to know about that game is that Marcus Paige scored 30 points on an excellent shooting night on the road in conference play. And, as Kennedy Meeks put it in the locker room, “No one cares!”
That’s because Brice Johnson had 39 and 23 rebounds on 14-16 shooting. He also had three blocks and three steals. Keep in mind that the first three years of Brice’s career were dominated by Roy Williams laying into him for being defensively disengaged. Also take into consideration that Brice’s best play that night wasn’t this:
It was this:
A pinned backboard block followed by an 85-foot on-the-money pass for a layup. Junior Brice doesn’t make that play. Senior Brice made it look easy. Playing for Roy Williams has to be a real bear some of the time, especially if you’re a developing big man. But Brice’s big night in Tallahassee shows that if you are strong enough to stay the course and wise enough to buy what Ol’ Roy is selling, there are rewards at the end.