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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Basketball Guide 2014: Versus column: Stanley Johnson vs Aaron Gordon

Rebecca Marie Sasnett
Rebecca Marie Sasnett / The Daily Wildcat during Arizona’s 2014-2015 Red and Blue Game at McKale on Saturday. The Red team won 53-46 against the Blue team.

Stanley Johnson

by Brian Peel

Man, Aaron Gordon was great, wasn’t he? From his impeccable defense to his almost nightly highlight-reel play, Gordon was key in the Wildcats’ run to the Elite Eight last season before being a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

In fact, Gordon was so good, he went toe-to-toe with King James himself at the annual LeBron James Skills Academy before he even officially suited up as a Wildcat.

Oh, wait, scratch that last one. That wasn’t Aaron Gordon who personally took on the best player in the NBA since Michael Jordan just months after graduating high school.

No, actually that was this year’s freshman superstar, Stanley Johnson, and he’s here to help you forget all about Gordon.

Johnson is often labeled with a few choice words that refer to his combination of athleticism and size. Words like “freaky” and “beast” are often tossed around when people watch him on the court.

Without knowing what he looks like, you might think Johnson is superhuman.

Listed at 6-foot-7 and weighing in at 245 pounds, Johnson could easily be mistaken for one of Rich Rodriguez’s new recruits. Rarely do you see freshmen come into the college game with a physical advantage like the one Johnson will have, and that is something Gordon simply didn’t have when he first arrived on campus.

While Gordon was taller and mainly played at the power forward position, Johnson will likely play a similar role and will be used as a lockdown defender and viable option in the fast break, just as Gordon was last season. The Johnson-Gordon comparisons are inevitable because of how highly recruited they both were and the potential they both possess, but, honestly, they are different players in different situations.

Johnson will likely be asked to be more of an offensive threat considering the loss of Nick Johnson and, as of now, looks more polished than Gordon was at this point last year. However, Gordon was not only one of the best defenders in the country a year ago, but he also dominated on the glass — something Johnson might not be as effective at.

Let’s allow the season to decide who the better player is, because it is still too early to say, but if the Wildcats are cutting down the nets in Indianapolis in April, things might become very clear.


 Aaron Gordon

by James Kelley

There can be only one one-and-done, and it is Aaron Gordon.

OK, not really, but if we’re talking highly-touted Arizona freshman forwards, the choice is 2013-14’s Gordon over 2014-15’s Stanley Johnson.

Brian and I are both history majors (well, I’m a journalism and history double major), so we’re practically masters of telling people what they should have done based on what happened already. I can tell you this: The Orlando Magic picked Gordon fourth overall in the NBA draft. has Johnson going fifth overall to the New York Knicks in the 2015 NBA draft. Of course, no one knows who will draft where in June; all that’s known is that fourth is better than fifth.

Plus, the 2013-14 Wildcats earned the No. 1 ranking for eight weeks. The current team hasn’t held the top spot yet.

All kidding aside, while Johnson comes in with impressive accolades, such as MaxPreps National Player of the Year, it is Gordon who had the better resume at this point in his career.

Yes, Johnson was MVP of the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for USA Basketball and averaged team highs of 14 points and 2.2 steals per game, but that was just the regional tournament.

Gordon won the MVP award for the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship, and he averaged team highs of 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as the team won the world championship.

More importantly, Johnson didn’t even start the Wildcats’ exhibition game against Cal Poly Pomona. Gordon started all 38 games for the Wildcats, plus the Augustana exhibition.

Defense and rebounding are even more part of the program than slogans such as “A Player’s Program,” “honor the process” or “attack.”

Gordon may have not had Steve Kerr’s jump shot, but he did have the qualities head coach Sean Miller covets: lockdown defense and a knack for grabbing rebounds. Gordon was seventh in the Pac-12 Conference in rebounds last year.

It was rebounding and defense that took the Wildcats to the No. 1 ranking and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Sure, they had flair, especially Gordon, but they had substance to go with that style.

Gordon will sorely be missed because he played defense so well.

When Johnson does eventually cement his spot in the starting lineup, he will have big shoes to fill as the one-and-done star UA forward.


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