By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s 6-7, has led his team to three straight California state championships, has had success with Team USA and has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Oregon, Southern Cal, Arizona and Florida.
Stanley Johnson of Santa Ana Mater Dei is one of the top prospects in the 2014 recruiting class because of his perimeter skills and a likely one-and-done player in college as a wing player. However, he’ll play point guard this season for his high school team.
That’s right. A 6-7 point guard.
“He’s a four-year starter for us, so I have seen him develop,” Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “He’s handling the ball a lot better and his outside shot just keeps getting better. He really worked on parts of his game during the summer that he needed to. He is also extremely intelligent along with being a good player.
“That’s why he’ll be playing point guard for us this year. We have some big players, but he has so much versatility and such great skills. It should help us and just make him even better in college.”
How talented is his tea? Rex Pflueger, a 6-6 junior guard, has offers from several Pac-12 schools. Sophomore M.J. Cage, who is 6-9, has a scholarship offer from Kentucky. Jayce Johnson, a 6-11 sophomore, is a big-time rebounder. And there is 6-6 Mario Soto.
Still, Johnson, the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register Player of the Year last season, is the team’s star. Make no mistake about that. He spent last weekend in Colorado working out with Team USA.
“I think that is quite an honor for him. He played two summers ago when they won a gold medal and enjoyed it,” McKnight said. “He had a great summer overall. He played with us about half the summer and did a great job when he wasn’t going across the country playing.”
He’ll be coming to UK for his official visit on Big Blue Madness weekend.
“He has the grades and talent to go anywhere he wants,” McKnight said. “We’ll see how everything works out.”
McKnight calls Kentucky coach John Calipari a “really, really nice guy and very good recruiter” who has pursued Johnson hard.
“Stanley is still just looking. He is very intelligent. You can’t con him. He knows who you have, what offense you run, who might be on the roster, who he might attract with him or who he may want to play with,” McKnight said.
McKnight said there still is no clear time when Johnson might make his college choice. He said the “last I heard” was during the Spalding Hoophall Classic Jan. 16-20 in Springfield, Mass. That’s one of the nation’s top prep events and will include top 10 players Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young High School/Chicago, IL), Cliff Alexander (Curie High School/Chicago, IL), Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy/Dallas, TX), Karl Towns Jr. (St. Joseph High School/Mutuchen, NJ), Kelly Oubre (Findlay Prep/Henderson, NV) and Johnson. Towns is a UK commit while Okafor and Oubre have been UK targets but Oubre is now committed to Kansas — and that makes Johnson even more of a priority for UK.
“He won’t rush a decision,” McKnight said. “If somebody calls and says he has to make a decision, then he has told me to drop them from the list. But you just don’t know. He may go down to Big Blue Madness and get blown away and commit right then. You just never know.
“I think he is getting tired of the phone calls and not being able to function normally at times. Cutting his list down to five makes for some sanity, but until you go through this, you just don’t know. You think you will love it, but after a while the attention, the calls, the pressure wears you out.”