Content provide by Todd Wickham
Stanley Johnson sits at the threshold of a reputation defining season. His 2011-12 Mater Dei Monarchs dominated California High school basketball en route to a State championship. Gone from the 34-2 team, Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) and Xavier Johnson (Colorado), are 36.7 of the 77.0 points per game the Monarchs averaged. Standouts Elijah Brown and Jordan Strawberry return, but there is little doubt Johnson strives to garner the role of Mater Dei’s next superstar. Fresh off a summer which included leading his AAU Oakland Soldiers to a 2012 Peach Jam EYBL championship, and the USA Basketball U17′s squad to a Gold medal, Johnson appears primed for the challenge. The 6’6 small forward is entering his junior year in High school, yet shoulders grown man expectations. Unfair? Of course, but the young man with the “Showtime” twitter handle is seldom short on confidence.
Stanley Johnson is as battle-tested as the Class of ’14 has to offer. State championships with Mater Dei. AAU tourney championships with the Oakland Soldiers. Gold medals/World Championships with USA Basketball. “Showtime” has little to fear when the lights shine their brightest. Johnson is scary-quick off the dribble, carries a high-level crossover, scores through contact, and thrives above the rim. Impressive body control and a solid 200lb frame allow Johnson to score effectively down low and drive the lane without hesitation. The 13.7 points averaged last season by the sophomore SF may not jump off the page, but the young man can, when called upon, provide near instant offense. During a recent 20 game stint with the AAU Oakland Soldiers, Johnson went for 16.0 points and 7.3 rebounds a game while averaging just 25.1 minutes. His strength, bounce, and nose for the ball, support impressive rebounding numbers (7.5 rpg ’11-’12, 22% of Mater Dei total). Xavier Johnson (graduated) accounted for 9.2 rpg last season, and this season (2012-13) Stanley Johnson should have increased opportunity to boost his numbers. The 6’6 SF’s assists (2.4 per game) last season (2011-12) belie Johnson’s high-level court awareness and ability to pass with pinpoint accuracy. The aforementioned experience under fire carried by Johnson is noteworthy. It is the wins he has secured when under that pressure however, which separate Stanley Johnson from all but a select few.
AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY
Similar to the previously featured Ricardo Gathers profile (6/19/12), Stanley Johnson is a reliable jump-shot away from all but unguardable. It is that jump-shot however, which may lay mess to this season’s best laid plans. Mater Dei opponents will not have Xavier Johnson’s inside presence with which to contend. As a result, Stanley Johnson may find driving the lane far more difficult than during previous seasons. Remaining inconsistent from range will only encourage defenses to further clog the middle and play off the dynamic Small forward. The aforementioned Peach Jam hot streak highlighted Johnson’s ability to score, many of the shooting results proved inconsistent. He shot 50.4% from the field but just 34.5% (19 of 55) from beyond the arc. Johnson attempted 78 of the Soldiers 324 free throws but made just 72% of his attempts. Not terrible, but certainly not great. More troubling however, is the frequency with which the talented junior-to-be commits a turnover. On the high school front, Johnson maintained an A/TO ratio of almost an even 1:1 (81 assist and 75 TO’s). Ideally, for a SF of his talent, the ratio would be at/above 1.5. The true eye-catcher comes when reviewing that 20 game Oakland Soldiers run. Johnson registered 22 assists (1.01 pg), and a shockingly high, 46 turnovers (2.3 pg). Whether the TO’s came as the result of an exhaustive summer basketball schedule, or the sloppiness/showboating which oft mars AAU games, the result remains the same. To remain among the game’s elite, Stanley Johnson must take better care of the basketball.
If records of elementary school playground hoops exist, my guess is the teams counting a young Stanley Johnson as a member, won far more than they lost. Experience is valuable. Championship experience is invaluable, and Johnson has it for days. What remains unknown, at least at the high school level, is Johnson’s performance when looked to as the #1 scoring option. My gut feeling is he handles the transition with little difficulty and by season’s end, if not earlier, is a leader of the Mater Dei hoops squad. The 3pt shot remains a work in progress, and I’d like to see the FT’s climb above 77-79%, but his talent is undeniable. My guess is the spike in TO’s during the AAU run was more aberration than prelude, but his ball-security bears watching. As mentioned, gone are Reinhardt and Xavier Johnson. Stanley Johnson will carry a much greater scoring load, and will require a consistent jumper to do so effectively. If the jumper comes, and I presume it will, I project his scoring output in the 22-25 point range (2012-13). His rebounds per game should increase to 9.0+, and given the touches he will register, I expect his assists to settle in the 3.5-4.0 range. Johnson is all but a sure-fire 1st Team All-State Division I performer and is my pre-season choice as California State Division I Player of the Year. He is a next level athlete and natural scorer. I’ll reserve any D1 projections for after Johnson’s junior year, but there’s little doubt his game screams “high-major”. If he grows to 6’7+ and 215-225lbs, fair chance we’re looking at a top 3 overall recruit in the Class of 2014.