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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Stanley Johnson could use more seasoning

Rebecca Noble

Arizona men’s basketball forward Stanley Johnson (5) attempts a shot during Arizona’s 85-78 loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row in the Staples Center in Los Angeles on March 28. Reports say Johnson is “torn” between staying at Arizona and leaving early for the NBA.

Everybody knew Stanley Johnson would only be at Arizona for one year. At least, that’s what most expected. He would be the next “one-and-done” a la Aaron Gordon. But ever since the Wildcats’ loss in the Elite Eight to the Wisconsin Badgers, something doesn’t seem right about Johnson leaving to the NBA.

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay another year; he would probably even be better than he is now.

Would Johnson be an NBA lottery pick this upcoming draft? No doubt. Would he earn millions of dollars? Certainly. Most NBA mock drafts have him going in the top 10. But imagine the experience and growth he could gain from another year under Arizona coach Sean Miller. 

Look at NBA-bound Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for example. The forward from Chester, Pa., improved in almost every single statistic from his freshman campaign, including minutes, points, assists and field goal percentage. Imagine what Johnson could do with at least another year under his belt.

CBS Sports reported on Monday that Johnson is “torn” on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft. That’s one word to describe it. I would be, too. Johnson was at the top of his game and seemed to have figured out how to implement himself into the Arizona offense. That was, until he was injured against Wisconsin and scored just six points in 25 minutes.

His freshman season was average. He averaged 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 28.4 minutes per game in a Wildcat uniform. He started 37 of 38 games and was third on the team in total minutes.

You could see Johnson’s immaturity on the floor, despite his success, throughout the season. Johnson struggled to put it all together in games — whether it was his last-second turnover dribbling off his foot against UNLV or getting benched at Utah. 

Yet, at the same time, Johnson’s freshman season was highly successful from an awards perspective. He was named Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year, first-team All-Pac-12 member, USBWA Freshman All-American, NABC third-team All-American, EA Sports Maui Invitational MVP and a finalist for the Julius Irving Small Forward of the Year Award.

Now, compare Johnson to Gordon. The Orlando Magic forward has not had the rookie year that he would have liked. Whether it be injuries, inconsistencies or just a plain adjustment from the college to NBA game, his rookie season has left much to be desired.

Johnson doesn’t want that. Johnson needs to be a winner. He won 135 games and lost just five times in his four years at Mater Dei High School. When adding in four CIF Division I state titles, it’s clear Johnson is accustomed to winning at a high mark.

He averaged 25.1 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 3.3 assists during his senior season at Mater Dei. He was a perfect 70-0 in his final two years in high school.

Six points against an elite Wisconsin team just is not good enough and something Johnson likely cannot live with.

An NBA scout told Daily Wildcat sports editor Roberto Payne that Gordon wasn’t ready last season and that Johnson could also use another year of seasoning before entering the NBA.

The saddest part is how Johnson supposedly guaranteed Miller a trip to the Final Four. If he stays another year, it would probably happen.

Regardless if he stays or goes, Johnson could use an extra year before he makes his way to the next level.


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