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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: That Stanley Johnson is so hot right now

Patrick Chong

Patrick Chong / The Daily Californian 

Arizona guard Stanley Johnson (5) shoots a basket over California center Kingsley Okoroh (22) during Arizona’s 73-50 win against California at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.

It’s fitting that NBA players and coaches packed in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night to watch Arizona men’s basketball defeat California, because, the Wildcats’ biggest and most NBA ready star shined once again.

For the fourth game in a row, freshman forward Stanley Johnson scored at least 18 points to lead the No. 7 Wildcats (17-2, 6-1 Pac-12) to a 73-50 win in Berkeley, Calif., over the Golden Bears.

The reigning Pac-12 player of the week scored 22 against Colorado, 18 versus Utah and 19 at Stanford. This week, Johnson was also named to the midseason watch lists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award.

As Mugatu from the 2001 hit movie “Zoolander” would say, “He’s so hot right now.”

While the Wildcats have won four games in a row and six of their last seven, and have returned to the top of the Pac-12 — beating then-No. 8 Utah and third place Stanford during that stretch — they are doing so with turmoil in the frontcourt.

At Cal, for the second straight game, starting center Kaleb Tarczewski and starting power forward Brandon Ashley were in foul trouble.

The Wildcats even went through one stretch where they didn’t score for over five minutes against a Cal side that was beaten 79-44 to lowly ASU on Thursday.

Johnson, who was 5-for-10 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free throw line, has become the one constant the UA can rely on, as other Wildcats make cameo roles as players to note each game.

At Cal it was backup center Dusan Ristic, who scored 12 points in relief of the struggling Tarczewski.

Meanwhile, Stan the man continued to fill the stat sheets. He was one rebound short of a double-double, grabbing nine boards, three of which were offensive, and he also had two steals.

Johnson’s recent resurgence coincides directly with the UA’s renaissance. In the last two weeks, Arizona has re-emerged as the king of the Pac-12 after a surprising loss at Oregon State.

Johnson was held to seven points and three rebounds in Corvallis, Ore. When the rookie turned it on against Colorado, the Wildcats’ mini skid — losing two of four games — ended.

Johnson was also quiet in the UNLV loss, putting up 13 points, but on 3-for-11 shooting, and he missed a potential game winner at the end of the Sin City defeat.

It’s kind of troubling for the Wildcats that as a freshman goes, they go, but he keeps getting better (18 points was his career-high for a while there). By March, he could be Arizona’s “Blue Steel,” leading them deep into the NCAA tournament like Derrick Williams in 2011.

Coincidently, Williams was in the Bay Area over the weekend to face Golden State Warriors.

“Some of their best players are young guys who are freshmen,” Williams said to the Arizona Daily Star. “They just gotta keep playing, trust coach [Sean] Miller and he’s gonna lead them in the right direction.”

Golden State Warriors coach and UA alumnus Steve Kerr, Warrior and former Wildcat Andre Iguodala and Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry were among the glitterati there to see future NBA player Johnson down the Golden Bears.

It won’t be long before Johnson joins them in the association, but the way he’s playing, it looks like he can extend his Arizona stay just a little longer, into April.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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