Arizona Wildcats Basketball: Why Stanley Johnson Is Best Sean Miller Recruit
Santa Ana, CA wing player Stanley Johnson, the Arizona Wildcats' highest rated recruiting target who remains unsigned, will reportedly join Sean Miller's program Friday afternoon (via Los Angeles Times).
Potentially signing Johnson is significant news for the Arizona Wildcats in a time when Miller is regularly bringing in some of the top classes in the nation. TucsonCitizen.com reports that Miller's past three classes have been ranked in the top 5 nationally by Rivals.com: Fourth in 2011, third in 2012 and fourth again in 2013.
The Arizona Wildcats have signed four McDonald's All-Americans in that time span—Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett in 2012 and Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in 2013. The 2011 class included Rivals.com five-star point guard Josiah Turner and four-star shooting guard Nick Johnson.
Turner became a disciplinary mess for Miller and the Arizona Wildcats. He left Arizona after only one year. Nick Johnson, however, has evolved into one of the most productive players for the program in his junior season (via WildAboutAZCats.net).
Stanley Johnson can bring more to the Arizona Wildcats than fellow AAU Oakland Soldiers alumni Nick Johnson, Gordon and Ashley.
Oakland Soldiers coach Jules Milstead, who has coached Stanley Johnson, Gordon and Ashley, told me during the summer circuit in Las Vegas that Stanley Johnson has no equal. That's saying a mouthful because Gordon is projected to be an NBA lottery pick (via DraftExpress.com)
“Stanley is best player I’ve ever coached,” said Milstead, who is in the third year as head coach with the Oakland Soldiers but has been affiliated with the program longer. “Aaron was the best, last year. Those two kids, I can get on them really tough and they respond. Other kids see that and it just trinkles down. Stanley is the best kid to put on a Soldier uniform.”
In addition to Miller's recruiting presence on the West Coast and Stanley Johnson's skills, this slideshow details the impact on the Arizona Wildcats program if Johnson signs today as expected.
No. 5: Arizona Will Continue Pipeline of One of the Best AAU Programs
The Oakland Soldiers AAU program is one of the best in the nation—LeBron James is an alum of theirs—and the Arizona Wildcats are one of its beneficiaries.
In the last three recruiting classes, Arizona coach Sean Miller has signed Oakland Soldiers alums Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon.
Signing Stanley Johnson today would make it five top-notch prospects from that AAU program for the Arizona Wildcats.
The Soldiers have a five-star recruit in making with Class of 2015 member Ivan Rabb, a 6'9" post player whose style of play resembles Chris Bosh (via WildAboutAZCats.net).
Signing Stanley Johnson today would keep the momentum alive to sign another talented player like Rabb from that highly successful AAU program.
No. 4: Arizona Will Maintain a Strong Recruiting Presence in the West
If Arizona signs Stanley Johnson, Sean Miller will bolster his image as an elite recruiter in California and on the West Coast.
It would signify that Miller and his staff were effective at going into the fertile recruiting ground of California and taking the two best players (Aaron Gordon and Johnson) in the last two years.
Gordon was a Rivals.com Five-Star recruit from San Jose (CA) Archbishop Mitty. Rivals.com ranks Johnson ranks third nationally in the Class of 2014. Gordon was also No. 3 last year.
Johnson has narrowed his choices to Arizona, USC and Kentucky. He has already spurned scholarship offers from UCLA (Arizona's most significant recruiting rival on the West coast), Oregon and Florida.
Johnson would join an Arizona class that includes power forward Craig Victor, point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright and guard Kadeem Allen, one of the nation’s top junior college prospects. Jackson-Cartwright is another Los Angeles prospect from Loyola High School.
No. 3: Johnson Will Bring Cohesion to Arizona Wildcats
Sean Miller lauds highly-touted freshman Aaron Gordon more for his personality than his skills, and the same will hold true for Stanley Johnson if he signs with Miller's team.
“He’s an incredible player but to me what separates Aaron Gordon is who he is as a person and his attitude,” Miller was quoted saying in The Arizona Daily Star. “He’s a fun guy to coach, a great teammate, a hard worker, a smart kid, very unassuming, and he goes about his business like a true professional. We’re lucky to have him."
Remember that quote because Miller will say the same thing about Johnson next season if Johnson signs with the Arizona Wildcats today.
Johnson, who has progressed in his career after battling weight issues, told me that he does not pay attention to the publicity he receives from the media or the famous coaches sitting in the stands during the AAU circuit.
His AAU coach, Jules Milstead, describes Johnson as "unselfish, wanting his lesser-known teammates to have the spotlight" (via TucsonCitizen.com).
“Stanley told me he could take a step back to let the other guys get noticed here,” Milstead told me during the summer. “That’s the kind of kid he is. His development is like night and day.
“He was always pretty skilled. He wasn’t really explosive before. He was close to 6-3 and 230 pounds, a little chunky (in the ninth grade). Now he’s grown about three inches, slimmed down and is more aggressive. When he’s on that wing and coming right at you, he’s like LeBron James coming right at you.”
No. 2: Johnson Will Step in and Produce Right Away
If Stanley Johnson makes the expected decision, how will he fit in with the 2014-15 Arizona lineup?
Johnson, 6'6" and 200 pounds, is versatile enough to play all the perimeter positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward).
Aaron Gordon, a potential NBA lottery pick, will likely turn pro, vacating the small forward position. If Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fills that starting spot, Johnson can back him up or start at shooting guard.
Nick Johnson plays that spot, but the probability exists that Nick Johnson can boost his NBA stock if he experiences an All-Pac-12 season this year.
Sean Miller's signing of Stanley Johnson not only bolsters Arizona's talent level, it also provides the coach flexibility and depth at the three perimeter spots.
It's a good dilemma for Miller even if Nick Johnson stays for his senior season. Stanley Johnson will get his minutes. Miller can go with an athletic and effective lineup with point guard T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson and post player Craig Victor (if center Kaleb Tarczewski tests the NBA market after the season).
No. 1: Johnson's Basketball IQ Can Pay Dividends
Why is having a player with a high basketball IQ extremely important? Arizona Wildcats fans know the answer. Mike Bibby, one of the best when it came to basketball IQ, was solid in his all-around play that lead Arizona to a national title in his freshman season of 1996-97.
Arizona's Final Four teams all featured players who studied the game as much as they played the game.
The list includes Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, Bibby, Miles Simon, Jason Gardner and Luke Walton.
Stanley Johnson's coach-on-the-floor ability sets him apart from the players Oakland Soldiers coach Jules Milstead has worked with over the years during the AAU circuit.
“He is a different type of kid,” Milstead told me about Johnson over the summer. “I haven’t seen a kid like that with his motor, his basketball IQ, with his ability in the open floor, and with his body control.”
Simon hails from Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei, where Johnson will complete his high school career this season. Johnson said he tries to emulate Simon's intuitive style.
“Miles is a really good person to look up to,” Johnson told me about Arizona’s Final Four MVP in the Wildcats’ 1997 NCAA championship run. “I really look up to him, and I talk to him all of the time.”
Johnson can follow in Simon's footsteps further if he declares his allegiance with Arizona today, as is expected.