Tag Archives: Stanley Johnson

One Man’s Impressions from the Pangos Camp

Pangos logoWe’ll be along shortly with a video of veteran scout Van Coleman’s take on some of Duke’s actual or potential prospects, and I’m certainly not a professional scout.  But I did spend a fair amount of time last weekend watching these kids play in multiple games and in case anyone’s interested, here’s what I saw:

 

Stanley Johnson was the MVP of the camp, and deservedly so.  He’s a solid-bodied, athletic SF/wing, and the thing about Stanley is he really, really competes hard.  Nobody is outworking this guy.  He has really worked on his outside shot, and it is much improved.  He was hitting them all weekend, but nowhere more visibly than in the end-of-camp all-star game, where he nailed 4 3-pointers from range.  But I think he’s at his best taking it to the hole.  He’s strong with the ball, he can play through contact, and he’s just relentless in there.  Johnson is also a serious defensive player, locking down mostly opposing 3’s, but also can play 2-guards easily and in the all-star game was matched up with bigtime PF Elijah Thomas inside.  Johnson plays at a very good high school (Mater Dei) and in a top quality AAU program as well (Oakland Soldiers) and comes from a solid background.  I spoke at length [private] with his father, who is a smart and thoughtful guy, and says that while he will have input, the decision will be Stanley’s to make.  Duke is in his list of 8, and it’s between Duke and Kansas for the fifth and final official visit — Stanley said that the first four have all been recruiting him longer and he thought they deserved a visit for sure.  I would not expect a decision too soon.  The other thing is that Stanley has an outgoing personality and was clearly one of the most popular kids at the camp.  People around him all the time — likable kid.

Colorado point guard Josh Perkins, also Class of 2014, helped himself perhaps more than any other player in this camp.  He was just super.  He’s the main guy that I didn’t get that I would’ve liked to get an interview with, but just couldn’t squeeze it in at the end.  But his game: his handle is tight, and man can this kid dish it.  He really, really sees the floor well.  Stats don’t mean much from this camp, because other than the all-star game the games are played with a 40 minute running clock, so they’re short.  But in one game, Perkins amassed 17 assists.  And these are to kids he perhaps has never played with before, as the teams are just put together for the weekend with kids from all over the country.  Perkins also has a solid outside jumper to complement his outstanding floor game, and he’s a natural leader out there.  Perkins is fearless going to the hole, and finishes well.  He’ll even be better in that department when he gets a little stronger, and he should be in the weight room to do so, but he has time.  Defensively that would help him, but it’s not like he is a liability or anything at that end right now.  Good overall athlete.  Despite his transfer to Huntington Prep in West Virginia, right now Josh seems to be focused more on west coast schools — UCLA, USC, and Gonzaga (among others) are involved, and undoubtedly he is aware of Duke’s pursuit of Tyus Jones to play the point out of this class, but I had heard earlier that Duke was interested in him as well, so we’ll have to see where this one goes, if anywhere.  As far as point guards go in this class, there is Tyus and there is Emmanuel Mudiay — who everyone seems to think will end up at Kentucky — and Perkins is right at the top of the next group.  He’s not at the level of Jones or Mudiay, but he’s not as far behind them as he used to be after what he showed this past weekend.

I caught a little of 6’6″ wing Jalen Lindsey this weekend, but not as much as I would’ve liked, making it disappointing that, though selected, he did not play in the all-star game.  I think he had to catch a plane.  In any event, he has a very smooth outside jump shot and is athletic.  Doesn’t get beaten much on D.  But I see him as being a little passive out there.  He has a tendency to hang on the perimeter too much rather than force his defender to play him all over the floor.  I would like to see him get stronger and more importantly, get more aggressive.  He’s highly skilled, but he doesn’t impact the game as much as he could if he were to change his mindset a bit.

Moving to the 2015’s, obviously Elijah Thomas, PF out of Texas, was the man.  He has a wide body, wide, round shoulders, and soft hands.  And an ample derierre — in a good way.  He has a knack for scoring in traffic, with a soft touch.  He has lost a lot of weight so is in much better condition.  I could easily see him gaining 20 pounds of muscle too, and being just a man-child at 255 pounds or so.  Not baby fat, but muscle.  He’s a lefty, but I saw him shooting FT’s right handed all of a sudden, and when I talked to him about it, he told me that he considers himself ambidextrous.  Huge plus for an inside player to be able to shoot naturally and shoot well with both hands.   I won’t be surprised if he ends up a top-5 player in the Class of 2015.  Just like Stanley Johnson, Thomas is really an outgoing personality, lots of people around him, kids laughing with him all the time.  His high school team at Prime Prep in Dallas is going to be a monster this year, and his AAU squad has been solid in the EYBL events, so he’ll be center stage at the Peach Jam at the end of the summer.  He has a lot of the top schools in the nation after him, and he seems like the kind of kid who won’t be in a rush to make his decision.  But he mentioned Duke prominently in our interview, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I got my first look at 6’11” Stephen Zimmerman out of Bishop Gorman High in Vegas — that’s Shabazz’s old school.  He doesn’t look like much standing on the sidelines, long neck, thin, gangly, holds one arm a bit funny that he told me resulted from breaking it as a 2 year-old, but it’s a whole different deal when he steps on the court.  The left-hander looks smooth and polished on his 15 foot face-up jumper.  He somehow powers through guys underneath and scores in traffic.  He has good fundamentals — when he catches it high, it stays high.  He’s very athletic and showed it by catching numerous poorly thrown alley-ooops and finishing them anyway.  Oh, and he had one of the weekend’s highlights when he got a pass about 10 feet out, took one dribble and just threw down right in the face of this 6’10” kid named Idrissa Diallo out of LA.  Lots of oohs and aahs on that one.  Defensively, he showed that he already understands and can execute concepts such as the show-and-recover.  Underneath, he doesn’t just put his arms up and hope for the best.  He challenges shots.  Zimmerman is only about 215 pounds now, but he hasn’t even begun to fill out.  With his frame, I can easily see him at 235 or 240, and Van Coleman said he could see him at 255 or 260.  The kid is more reserved than many others.  While he gets along well with the other kids, in the interview I had with him — and others confirmed this as well — he is not all that forthcoming with information.  His mom and dad were here for the whole weekend, and perhaps have coached him to play it close to the vest, which of course is his decision to make.  He’s also really just busting out now, so this level of attention may be so new for him that he’s not sure how much to divulge.  That’s understandable as well.  Stay tuned on this one — the camp director thinks Zimm is really a Duke-type of kid.

Tyler Dorsey is a skilled 2015 combo guard out of Southern California.  He’s from Pasadena but is playing down at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, which is a traditional power.  Dorsey has grown several inches and now at 6’4″ has excellent size for a point guard, which is where he’s focused on developing his skills.  He held his own this weekend when matched up with Emmanuel Mudiay, taking it to him for an and-one, not turning it over, finding teammates frequently, and hitting the open J.  There’s a smoothness to Dorsey’s game.  He never seems rushed or in a hurry and seems to see the floor very well and know where guys are going to be.  Reminds me a bit of Kyle Anderson (now at UCLA) in that way, except he’s much more athletic than Anderson.  But with his strength and power, Mudiay was tough for Tyler to handle defensively, but then again Mudiay is tough for every point he plays against to handle defensively.  While it’s very early in his process, Duke has initiated contact with him, and Tyler told me that he really looks at who the coach has put in the league at his position.  He is quite aware of the name Kyrie Irving, let’s just leave it at that.  As you can see in the interview, very nice and respectful kid as well.

Finally, there is Thon Maker, the 7 footer, class of 2016, originally from the Sudan, then Australia, now at the Carlisle School in Martinsville, VA.  He is incredibly long, with a huge wingspan. And very, very thin.  I saw him play at the EYBL in LA a few weeks ago, and he didn’t make much of an impact.  Then in his first game at the Pangos camp, same thing.  Many minutes would go by and he would just run (gracefully) from end to end but not really be involved in the action.  When he did get the ball, it was usually 20+ feet from the basket, and what Thon did show out there was a surprisingly good handle, going between his legs, crossing over, all of that.  But then he would try to get too fancy and he turned it over a number of times.  And he really likes to hoist up 3-pointers.  I think all weekend I saw him make one or two, but he missed a lot more than that.  Funny thing is, he has a really good looking stroke, both from the FT line and beyond.  Very good mechanics.  But obviously that’s not where a 7 footer, especially at this level, should be playing.  That said to me that he needs to learn his game and play to his strengths much more.  That’s a matter of coaching, in a big way, as he needs to learn how to play the game and how to approach it properly.  The kid is athletic, no doubt.  He’s very thin so he can be pushed around.  His handler from Boo Williams says he’s already gained 35-40 pounds, which is almost hard to believe, but that he plans on putting another 35 or so on Thon.  We’ll see if his frame can handle that.

But getting back to his game, I must say that as the weekend wore on, he got better.  He got more aggressive with his post-ups, he held position better, he took the ball to the hole some, and he was very aggressive on the boards and in going after shots at the defensive end.  He really seemed to turn his energy level up, which was really good to see.  If a kid this tall with arms this long, who is already athletic, can bring passion and energy to the defensive end, challenging shots and making life very difficult for the opposing offense, he’s going to be a major presence.  And then if his coach can get him to learn a post move or two, look out.  Get him off the three point line, get him on the blocks, so that he’ll be a true inside-outside threat.  Keep in mind, the young man is not only not from this country, he’s only just finishing up the 9th grade.  Plenty of time to grow, both on and off the floor.

For you guys who like to follow national recruiting, some other guys who were impressive, in no particular order: Leon Gilmore, 6’7″ out of Texas, Craig Victor, 6’8″ out of New Orleans, Alex Robinson, good looking point guard out of Texas, Kodi Justice, 6’5″ shooter out of Arizona, PG Emmanuel Mudiay of course, who is just so strong for a point guard, he can shoot it and he just plays very physically — he’s a handful, but the question is: is he a floor general?, Jabari Craig, 6’10” out of Atlanta, Daniel Hamilton, 6’7″ HS teammate of Tyler Dorsey and brother of former Texas guard Justin Hamilton (Daniel has already committed to UConn), Carlton Bragg 6’9″ out of Cleveland, Dwayne Morgan 6’7″ committed to UNLV, 6’5″ Rashad Vaughn, clearly one of the top players in the class of 2014, maybe the best and smoothest SG out there, co-MVP of camp all-star game with Mudiay, being recruited hard by among others UNC (even with Theo in tow), 6’7″ Terry Larrier out of Pennsylvania, who was a big surprise but really impressed, and Chris McCullough 6’9″ uber-athlete already committed to Syracuse –they’ve got a real good one here.

From a Duke perspective it was just a shame that Kevon Looney and Myles Turner couldn’t make it.

That’s it, guys.  Great weekend of hoops and hope to provide more down the line.

Talk about this article or ask questions to Tom for further analysis on the BDN Premium Message Board.

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Pango’s All American Camp Recap – The Duke Perspective

Long Beach, CA – For the tenth year in a row the Pangos All American Camp was put on in California. Considered by some to be the official start of the summer AAU season, kids from all across the country spent three days competing and trying to show everyone what they were made of. This year the event was back at Cabrillo High School.

The event started off Friday night with former college and NBA coach Dave Miller firing up the kids with his no nonsense, no sugar-coating speech. Miller, the former coach of NBA point guard Chris Paul, spoke to the kids about being intense as well as not worrying about the rankings. He described former camp alumni Chandler Parsons and Landry Fields as players who no one knew about but are now earning a living in the NBA. Miller’s candid approach was very refreshing to hear and the players seemed to respond.

As is usual for the Pangos event, multiple recruiting analysts and even former NBA player Reggie Theus spoke to the kids. This recruiting roundtable is to give the kids a sense of reality and to teach them a bit of responsibility.  Dave Telep gave the kids a great speech about the current NCAA transfer rate which he stated was at about 40%. He challenged the campers to not hide from adversity and simply transfer to a different school, but to instead take it head on. (for more on the Duke prospecte, subscribe to BDN Premium) [private]

Perhaps my favorite speaker was former NBA player Reggie Theus. Reggie was at the camp to watch his son Reggie Theus Jr play. Theus spoke on the passion that players play with and to use that passion in their everyday lives. He challenged them to do everything with intensity and heart. He ended his speech with a flashback anecdote about his rookie year in the league. He described his first game guarding George ‘Iceman’ Gervin and how the Iceman was a true pro. He explained to the campers that Gervin didn’t talk trash when he started taking it to him and that true pro’s don’t need to talk trash, they simply let their game talk for them.

While there weren’t many Duke prospects there were some that Duke has contacted and likely will look at in the near future.

Cliff Alexander: This was the first opportunity to see the 6’9 2014 Chicago big man and he did not disappoint. Cliff ran the floor as well as any big at the camp and seemed to constantly put forth that energy you wish to see from a big man. As most camp settings go the guards do not always pass to the big men, but that didn’t stop Big C (he has this tattooed on his right shoulder) from hustling and getting put backs in. When a guard did dump it off to him in the post he knew exactly what to do with it. Cliff showed the instincts to keep the ball up high and go straight up for dunks, eliminating any pesky guards from reaching in and stripping it away from him. He showed off a beautiful spin move across the baseline in which the defender had no chance of stopping and went straight up for a easy flush. Alexander also showed off a bit of range as he knocked down back to back 20 footers from the right baseline. Overall it was easy to see why he is considered to be one of the better big men in his class.

Stanley Johnson: By now I’ve had a chance to see Stanley a few times and he continued to bring that same defense that he was heralded for. The 6’6 Mater Dei wing has a solid frame for his age and displays some nice bounce as well. Reviewing one of Andrew’s earlier articles with him he had stated he felt his shooting and ball handling was a weakness of his. While he isn’t a deadly sniper his jumper was pretty smooth and he dropped it fairly consistently this weekend. He stated in my video interview with him that he had been working hard on it and it seemed to show. He also showed off an ability to get into the lane and attack the basket. Johnson seemed to be everywhere on the court and always playing hard defense on his man.

Wayne Selden: I was fortunate enough to see Wayne a few times last summer at the Nike EYBL in Los Angeles so it was intriguing to see how he had improved since last summer. He seemed to be slightly bigger than I remember last summer. Selden was listed at 6’5 and he looks pretty close to that listing. Wayne is very powerfully built and that alone allows him to bulldoze his way through defenders that stand in his way. Defenders had a difficult time dealing with his relentless attacking of the rim. Wayne threw down a few nice dunks showing off his power and leaping ability. Selden also put on display his shooting ability this weekend. He showed off a very smooth stroke from deep as well as some mid range game. One aspect of his game that I was surprised to see was his passing ability. He fired off numerous pin point passes over the weekend that would make some viewers light up in surprise. Andrew had stated to me that Wayne wanted to expand his game some and play point guard. While I’m not sure if he could run a team fulltime, he certainly could have a decent portion of the offense run through him with his playmaking ability. At this point he’s such a talented guard that he’s going to attract some attention, creating the possibility for open teammates to get easy looks. It was very easy to see why he is considered one of the best in 2014.

Isaiah Briscoe: Known as ‘Boogie’ on the courts, the 2015 freshman played extremely well this weekend. This was my first chance at seeing him but I was fortunate enough to catch about 3 games from the Newark, New Jersey native. The cousin of former Duke guard, and current NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, Briscoe seems to play the game with almost an older players mindset. He plays with extreme composure for such a young player. He is also built like a prospect that might be in his junior or senior year of high school. Briscoe was all over the court playing some defense as well as showing off his driving ability and shooting ability. He made some nice passes this weekend but unfortunately his teammates were unable to connect at times. Briscoe definitely looks the part of a top 2015 player and at this point there’s no reason to see him slowing down. He was very impressive this weekend and Duke fans would be happy to see him follow in his cousins footsteps.

Chris McCullough: The 2014 Bronx native was very active this weekend. Andrew introduced his game to me this weekend and I came away fairly impressed. Listed at about 6’10 the big man has some nice length for his size. At this point he’s on the thinner side but you can see his frame is built to add some weight. McCullough had some very nice put backs this weekend and was active up and down the court. He showed some driving ability from outside but I’m not sure that will be his game down the road. However, it did show the talent that he possesses at such a young age. Once he puts one more weight McCullough should be difficult to handle.

There were two PG’s that were supposed to be at the event that supposedly had Duke as dream schools. As Andrew had mentioned on the board 2014 PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright was one of them but he would likely end up picking Arizona. Unfortunately Parker was not at the event. The other was 2014 Las Vegas prospect Shaquille Carr. I was told that Carr’s dream school was Duke but wanted to confirm it. I spoke with him briefly and he lit up when I asked him if he had any dream schools. It was refreshing to see a prospect be so honest. He told me that Duke was always his dream school and that he would probably commit on the spot if offered. I asked Carr what he liked about Duke so much and he stated it was the offense that Coach Krzyzewski ran. He enjoyed how much freedom and responsibility the guards were given. Carr said he considered himself a floor general and that his strength was getting to the rim. I caught him on a few occasions and he showed an ability to drive and dish off to the man down low. He also was able to thread the needle on a few occasions this weekend. He’s currently considered anywhere from a three to four star prospect. Regardless, it was refreshing to see a player be so honest and show love for Duke this weekend.

Miscellaneous Notes:

    2015 prospect Stephen Zimmerman was supposed to be in attendance but was not.
    Allerik Freeman also did not attend as apparently he had been missing too much school due to various basketball events.
    Former Duke great Johnny Dawkins was briefly in attendance to watch his son Aubrey.
    Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown also was in attendance briefly to watch his son Elijah Brown.
    Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck was in attendance likely catch his player Christian Wood. [/private]

The Last Honest Man In The Gym: Tom Konchalski

Tom Konchalski of the HSBI Report, Photo by Kevin Armstrong

Tom Konchalski has been evaluating high school basketball players for nearly forty years. In a business filled with fly-by-night operations, charlatans, non-athletes, and simpletons, he’s the exception. Mr. Konchalski is a disciplined, compassionate, learned man of faith who keeps his eyes open and his ears to the ground.

In an age of social media, where a seventeen year-old with a Twitter account can call himself a recruiting analyst, the 6’5″ Queens native still utilizes a typewriter for his HSBI Report and sends it via mail to more than two hundred college programs. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote of the veteran scout that he was the “only honest man in the gym.”  Unfortunately, it’s a fairly apt description of the AAU circuit on many summer nights.

Recently, I spoke with my mentor, consigliere, and friend about twelve players who have, at least, received interest from Duke  in the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Never prone to hyperbole, the McDonald’s All-American voter graciously gave his candid assessments.

 

 

 

6'4" Rasheed Sulaimon, Photo by Andrew Slater

Rasheed Sulaimon: “He’s a very good player. He’s athletic and has good size. He has skill. He plays a team game and lets the game normally come to him. He’s a guy who I think is going to be a good team player at Duke.[private] I think he’ll be a good system player at Duke and Duke’s system fits him quite well. He should become a very good player for them and I don’t think he’s going to be a player who will be a one or a two years and done for them. He’s going to be around for three or four years. You need those kind of players because those are the types of players that Duke has had most success with. Defensively, he has the body, the strength, and the quickness to be a very good defensive player.”

 

 

 

6'8" Amile Jefferson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Amile Jefferson: “He’s a young colt who’s waiting for his body to blossom, but he has a really good feel for the game. Right now, he’s probably more of a 4/3 and, obviously, he’s going to have get stronger, but, in the ACC, it’s not as if he’s going to the Big Ten or the Big East, which is even more of a physical conference. In terms of style of play, if he were to go to Duke, that would be a good pick, but he’s still got to get stronger in order to be able to play both sides of the court. He’s a guy who has some perimeter skills..not an explosive athlete, but, when he starts to working to improve himself physically, his legs will get stronger. He will get quicker and he’ll get more lift off the ground. He’s a guy who has a good feel for the lane and the baseline. He’s almost like an old-time player around the lane. He knows how to finish without going above the rim or jumping over people. He knows how to use his body to get between the defender and the ball. He knows how to shield the ball and reverse it. He has a really good feel for the game and he’s a really good kid. He’s also a good student.”

 

6'6" Shabazz Muhammad, Photo by Andrew Slater

Shabazz Muhammad: “Shabazz Muhammad is a guy who may be the best senior in the country right now. I don’t think he has the potential to be a superstar. I think there are other people who may have a  higher ceiling, such as guys like Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Randle. Right now, he just plays so hard. He’s high energy, but he has some holes in his game. For example, he never beats you going right. When Mater Dei, for example, beat them in the fifth place game at the City of Palms, Stanley Johnson did a really good job of defending him because he overplayed him to his left. He ended up with thirty anyhow, but most of those came in the second half after they were already down twenty. He’s an extraterrestrial athlete and he has great work habits on the floor. He gives you great second effort. He’s left-handed, which is an advantage. He can hit some threes off of the catch. He’s got to work at getting the ball on the floor and being able to change direction. He’s got to build up his right hand, but he’s a terrific athlete. He’s a guy that when he goes to college, I don’t know if he’s going to be ready to go to the NBA after one year because he does have these areas of his game that he needs to develop. He’s a guy that you’d love to coach. He’s a classic coaches’ player because he plays so hard, especially for a guy like Coach Krzyzewski that sees in him the kind of effort that he was used to as a player and a coach for Army and in his earlier, lesser talented teams at Duke, where they just showed so much toughness and great effort. I think that was the attraction there.”

 

6'8" Tony Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

Tony Parker: “Tony Parker is a good player. He’s a really good kid. He has good hands. He has good skills. The key thing for him is conditioning. He’s lost some weight and he’s got to lose some more weight. He’s actually in better shape now than he was over the summer, but he’s got to lose even more weight and improve his conditioning. I don’t think he’ll ever be a star, but I think he’ll be a very good, solid player and kid who’s a good student and I think he probably sees himself as staying around a while and not leaving. He’s a four or a five, depending on where he ends up. He can step out and hit a mid-range shot, but he’s never going to be a perimeter scorer. God didn’t give him that body to shoot jump-shots and play on the perimeter. That body has got to be used inside. What he’s got to do is sculpt that body, change his body somewhat, and ultimately use it as a weapon.”

 

6'8" Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

Jabari Parker: “Now, he’s a guy, who, since the end of his sophomore season, really did change his body type. He shed a lot of that baby fat. He’s gotten quicker. He got a lot more lift off of the ground and he’s also improved his perimeter skills. He’s become a pretty good three-point shooter. The one thing that I haven’t seen with him… and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him this summer.. is that I’m not sure if he has the disposition to dominate a game, although, maybe… when he was younger, he was looking to simply defer to his upperclassmen. He’s got to become a little bit more assertive. In big games, he’s got to learn to take over games, which I think is a learning process for him. That said, if you want to talk about guy that has athleticism, a good feel for the game, plays the game the right way, and has a really good skill set for his size, he certainly is one of the best players in the country, regardless of class. When I saw him at the Peach Jam, for example, he showed certain things, but I think a lot of it has to do with his personality. He wants to defer to the older players somewhat. He doesn’t want to try to take over completely. He hasn’t become a prolific scorer in the Chicago Public League just yet, but there are a lot of weapons on his Simeon team so I don’t think you’re going to see him average twenty-five or thirty points. He does, however, need to come up big for them in their biggest games. With his size, athleticism, and skill set, he’s got to be even more of a factor for them. Right now, I don’t know that he quite realizes how good he is and can be. Everybody says that he’s a very humble, grounded kid, but he may not realize just how good he is.”

 

6'9" Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

Julius Randle: “I’ll tell you what… he was spectacular down at the City of Palms. Against Riverside (Riverside Academy of Louisiana), I thought he was bothered by the size and I thought he tried to initiate too much of his offense, after he was bothered by the size of Riverside in the first half. In the second half, I think he played too much on the perimeter to try to counter them. Now, here is a guy that has a Wayman Tisdale body, he’s left-handed, and he can shoot the ball. He’s actually strong with his dribble. He can take the dribble through traffic. He has a tremendously high ceiling. He could be a great, great player. I really like him.”

 

 

 

 

6'8" BeeJay Anya, Photo by Andrew Slater

BeeJay Anya: “BeeJay Anya, as Coach Jones mentioned, is in so much better shape. He said that when he got cut from the USA basketball team that it really was a wakeup call to him. He took it to heart and became dedicated to improving himself physically. He trimmed down, lost weight, improved his conditioning, and just got in better overall shape. Right now, he’s so much more active. He runs the floor more consistently. He can stay in the game for longer stretches. He has more range rebounding-wise. Before, his rebounding range was his arm length, which is considerable  (astonishing 7’9″ wingspan), but now he can really go out of his area and grab some rebounds for his team. His offense has gotten better too, but I think he’s just so strong. As you know, he’s retained his strength and he knows how to use his body and you saw the difference. He’s a man-child. He improves and he keeps on working. The thing that you notice about the DeMatha kids, you know, Morgan Wooten isn’t the coach there, but one of his disciples is and they’ve retained the same work ethic. Also, it’s the same character that you’re finding with their kids. They have good kids. They have talented players, but, if they’re not good kids, they’re going to get them out of there.

 

6'5" Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Theo Pinson: “Long, 6’5″ to 6’6,” he played with CP3. He’s very thin, but a skilled player. He’s a young guy, who was 6’5″ to 6’6,” who can handle the ball and shoot the ball with range. He looks like a fine prospect, but I want to see more of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6'11" Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

Jahlil Okafor: “He’s a big, strong post player inside. Because Thomas Hamilton tore his meniscus, there was more responsibility put on him. He’s a terrific kid, very friendly, very smart. That’s a good school. That’s probably the best public high school in the Chicago system academically. He’s a big, strong kid inside who doesn’t try to be something he’s not. He doesn’t try to be a perimeter wannabe. He recognizes and utilizes his strengths. That’s a valuable thing. He’s not a 6’10” kid who wants to go outside, loft up threes, and show that he can dribble the ball or change direction with the ball. He knows what he is. He’s a power player inside. Ben Franklin said that there are three things hard in life: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self. I guess he’s read Ben Franklin.”

 

6'5" Wayne Selden, Photo by Andrew Slater

Wayne Selden: “First of all, when you look at him, he has a man’s body. He’s a sophomore, but he should be a junior. So, he’s a reclassified kid. When he goes to college, there’s not going to be any physical adjustment that he’s going to have to make when he gets there, which is an advantage. Even when you look at the guys who go from college basketball to the pros, the guys who give you the most instant impact are those that have already prepared their bodies for the next level. The two kids who went straight from high school to the pros who had the most instant impact and who wound up earning Rookie of the Year in their respective years, 2003 and 2004, were Stoudamire and LeBron James. They entered the league with NBA bodies. Well, he’s got a college body, right now. He’s a strong, tough physical kid, who’s also very nice kid. His skill level has really improved. When I first saw him, which was the summer before his freshman year, he was more like a 6’4″ power forward, but he has been able to develop his game and learned how to handle the ball, while keeping that physical mentality. They let him bring the ball up the court and sometimes play a little point guard, but he doesn’t see the court like a point guard and he’s certainly not a point guard. He can, however, handle the ball, get to the basket, and shoot threes. In terms of his shot selection, he can sometimes put up poor shots, but, overall, that’s improved as well. He’s a guy who has great physical ability and he’s a guy who has elevated his skill level. The next thing is for him to further understand the game, but he’ll probably end up as a big two guard or a big combination guard. Once again, he’s a very nice kid. He’s also a terrific prospect.”

 

6'6" Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater

Stanley Johnson: ” He’s a good basketball player, but a terrific teammate. He plays in a program where there’s a lot of players and there’s a system. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a star, but he knows how to play the game and he plays both ends of the floor. He’s their designated defender and he can defend multiple positions. He’s the guy who defend Shabazz Muhammad very well in the City of Palms and he defended Isaiah Austin, I believe, for several stretches in their prior game against Grace Prep. He’s a strong, physical kid, who’s about 6’6,” who’s not a great athlete, but he knows how to use his strength and his shot discipline is very impressive. He takes shots that he knows he can hit. He’ll take an occasional three. He’s not going to create off of the dribble or anything like that, but he’s also not going to try to. He generally lets the game come to him. He’s a very good team player and system player. They play a lot of people. They’re like the Noah’s Ark of basketball programs. They’ve got two of everything, (laughs) but he stays on the floor most of the time because he offers them a lot on both ends. He can handle the ball, defend the opposition’s best player, and just really seems like a good teammate and a terrific kid.”

 

6'8" Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater

Noah Vonleh: “He’s a big, 6’8″ kid with good skill. He can guard pretty well and he’s also a versatile defender. He gets down in his stance pretty well. I think he wants to be a perimeter player. I think he needs to use his strength and size a little more than he tens to do right now. He seems very coachable. He’s very athletic and has a good body. He has good skill for his size. Right now, he’s not a small forward and I think he’s got to realize that. His game has probably got to start a little more inside. He’s got to get a little more developed. He’s a guy that eventually with his size and, if he can develop his skill set, might become a three, but he’s got to develop his game. He’s another kid who should be a junior, but he’d, at least, be a young junior. He’ll graduate at eighteen, whereas, before he would’ve graduated at seventeen. He’s certainly one of the best players in that class.”

 

Overall thoughts on the 2013 class: “Well, before, there were those three big three and there were the Harrison twins who are very close behind. Those twins will be very good. You like Andrew (Harrison) more, which is appropriate and fits in with today’s Gospel (laughs). I think those three have more upside than anyone that was in this class. The seniors in this class…I’m just, well, I think that Shabazz and Kyle Anderson were probably the two best seniors in this class. They’re very good players. Kyle, from the neck on up, is the best high school player in his class, but, from the neck on down, he just is not. Those three, however, can be really stars at the college level and they can be stars at the pro level. They have so much physical ability and they have skill.”

 

On whether Jabari Parker and Julius Randle could play together: “Jabari can play with him. Randle is a four/five, with, for example, more perimeter skill than Nerlens. They could be interchangeable. The thing that I don’t know is that, with the transcendent talents that they are, I don’t know if any of them would want to share the spotlight, with the way kids think right now. That said, if two of them went to the same college and stayed for more than one year, that’s a national championship team. If they stay together for one year, that still may be a national championship caliber team. Who knows?”

 

Best long-term potential of Parker, Randle, and Noel: “I couldn’t say. I’ve seen Julius and Nerlens play four times this high school season and I just haven’t seen Jabari play as often, but let’s just say that they all have Brobdingnagian potential. The sky is the limit for each of them. They can be as good as they want to be. They can each be truly impact players not only at the next level, but on the level beyond that.”[/private]

Stanley Johnson: All-American

Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater of BDN

Stanley Johnson, a 6’6″ wing from Mater Dei, has experienced  quite a bit in the past year. As a freshman, the Fullerton native helped the Monarchs of Mater Dei win their eighth state title, grabbing fifteen rebounds in the state title game against De La Salle. Johnson was named a MaxPreps Freshman All-American.

Last June, Stanley was expected to give a defensive presence to the USA U-16 team as they competed for the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in Mexico. Although Johnson was the youngest member of the USA U-16 team, he wound up starting the first two games in Cancun, against Brazil and Argentina, respectively, before suffering a fracture-dislocation of his left index finger at 4:03 of the first quarter of the second game, which eliminated his ability to play for the remainder of the tournament. Despite the injury, the 2014 prospect enjoyed representing his country, his time with his eleven teammates, including roommate and friend Tyus Jones,  and scored fourteen points in the opening game against Brazil.

The youngest of five, Johnson gets some of his pedigree and tutelage from his mother, Karen Taylor, who was able to play both forward positions at Jackson State and professionally in France. He wears the number 41 in honor of her, believing that four plus one means grace.

Last month, Stanley, a sophomore, was tasked by Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight with guarding Duke 2012 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, at the City of Palms in Ft. Myers, FL. Johnson held arguably the most explosive scorer in the 2012 class to two first-half points by forcing him to use his right hand. This Monday at the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College, he overcame  a sub-par shooting night (3/10 FG) to contribute a team-high fifteen rebounds and nine points, while utilizing his athleticism and physical play to employ solid defense on Christ The King. The night before he won the 2012 Hoop Hall Slam Dunk Contest with an explosive dunk off of a pass out of the bleachers from his senior teammate Katin Reinhardt.

Stanley Johnson spoke afterwards with Blue Devil Nation about a variety of issues, including his experience with USA Basketball, his mother’s influence, Duke’s recent interest, defending Austin Rivers, and being labeled a team player.

 

 

Talk about the game today. 

It was a really good win for the team. We had a lot of guys get into the game, which is always good. We played really hard and I think it was one of the best games we played this season… and it showed on the scoreboard. I think if we keep playing like we did today,  we’ll be pretty good.

Well, you guys play a pretty competitive schedule.

Playing a competitive schedule makes you play harder because you have the ability to lose at any time. Our coach says that he’s going to schedule us in these competitive games because we play harder in these harder games and he wants to challenge us.

[private]

I guess the long-term benefits would be success in the state playoffs. That’s what you guys are going for.

Yeah, the long-term goals are the state playoffs and trying to win another state title, where we’ll hopefully be more used to the physical and tough competition than the opposition will be. That’s the game plan.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are getting to the basket and just playing with physical play. I try to be a bit physical out there. My weaknesses are my jump-shot and my ball security. I’ve got to work on that a little bit more. 

And do you work on that in the off-season?

 I work on that all of the time. I do it through the season, all twelve months of the year. You always can get better and so I want to try to get better at everything.

In terms of emulating players, is there a guy you try to model your game after?

I like LeBron because he does a lot of everything. He scores, defends, rebounds, and can pass the ball well too. He gets a lot of triple-doubles.

How tall are you?

I’m 6’6.”

And you have a few more years of potential growth. Do you like his style?

Yeah, I like him because he puts up high numbers. I just like how he can do everything out there. I like that. I want to be an all-around player. 

Which schools are after you right now?

The whole Pac-Twelve, Kentucky, Duke, Auburn, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, all of the above. All of the schools I’m very interested in.  There are so many schools, I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, but those are most of them.

How does it break down in terms of those with formal offers and those who have shown serious interest?

Well, I have a lot of offers on the table. I haven’t gotten a chance to go out to colleges and stuff because I’ve been busy with school. I haven’t gotten a chance to get out, but I’m going to try to get out soon, as soon as I can.

Are you planning on doing some visits in the off-season? Well, between the AAU season and the high school season..

 I’ll be trying to visit a lot of colleges and stuff cause that’s when I’ll get a chance. I’ll have my really off period.

Are you a good student? Because you’re articulate, I didn’t know.

Yeah, I’ve got between a 3.3 and a 3.4.  I try to do well in school, but, yeah, during the off season I’m going to try to visit schools.

In terms of a timeline, are you in a rush to decide?

Oh, no, I’m not rushing this at all. I feel like I just want to go through this once. I don’t want to rush this decision because I don’t think anything good comes from rushing a decision. I feel like my recruiting process is just getting started. I want to make sure that everything is even, make sure I really want that school. I don’t want to go through the process more than once.

What will you be looking for whenever you do decide?

Oh, well, I live in California, so I like that home feeling of California. My high school coach is awesome. I’d like to have that kind of feeling. 

He’s built quite a powerhouse at Mater Dei.

Yeah, they accept me. They like the way I am. They’re cool with me.

They embrace you.

Yeah, they embrace me. So I want that, and I just want it to be good. A good offense and a good defense.

What style of play do you prefer? I really rarely get to see you during the high school season, but I’ve seen you at camps and in AAU basketball. Do you prefer an up-pace tempo or one that employs more half-court sets?

I like fast-paced, but I can play the half-court system. You know, as a team, we try to do both things and so I feel comfortable in either system. 

You’re just trying to win the game, whatever it takes.

Yeah, whatever it takes to win the game. 

Who’s the toughest player you’ve faced so far?

Oh, Austin Rivers. 

Austin Rivers?

Yeah, I had to guard him last year at the City of Palms. He was an absolute killer.

This gentleman that I respect was telling me that you did a tremendous job of guarding Shabazz Muhammad this year.

Oh, Shabazz. I guarded him pretty well. I think he only had like 16 on me for the whole game, but then I came out in the middle of the fourth quarter and he got some points at the end. But Shabazz, he’s really good. He’s strong left-handed and his right is alright, so my coaches were telling me to stay on his right. “Just stay on his right.” Make sure he goes right and then I just got the opportunity. I mean, he’s my size. He’s got my athletic ability, so I tried to make him go right every time. I tried to slow him down a little bit and then when I came out of the game, he got some more points.

Sort of on the same topic, but how would you assess your defense at this time in general?

I feel like I do a lot of agility drills and I feel like my feet are on point. I feel like, with my quickness, I can guard anyone from a one to a four. Fast or small, big or tall. (laughs)

And can you go back to that matchup with Austin one more time?

Austin could do everything, I mean, I couldn’t find a weakness with him. I played him left and he hit a floater off of me. I played him off and he hit a jumper over me. I played him tightly and he drove right by me. He hit the mid-range. He was doing everything. 

He’s tough to defend.

Yeah, yeah, he’s good.

Speaking of Austin, what’s Duke’s interest level in you and what do you know about the program?

I know that the program is known for winning and that’s what I like to do so that right there is automatic interest. I heard Coach K is a really good coach. I see them on TV all of the time. I want to step into a good situation. I don’t want to step into some easy situation and I don’t think they’d expect it. I see them recruiting high level players all of the time. I don’t want to step into an easy situation, I want to step into a situation where I’m going to have to work. I don’t want to walk into a place where I automatically get a starting position, I want to have to work for it. I know Coach K will give me no slack. I know he won’t give me anything and I like that. 

Some guys want guaranteed early playing time.

Yeah, some guys just want to step into an easy situation, but that’s not me. I want to work for it, I don’t need any guarantees. 

And can you talk about the interest that they’ve shown in you so far?

Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten letters from them.

From Coach Wojo?

Yeah, I’ve gotten letters from him and I’ve called them a couple of times. He’s always telling me, when you’re ready, I’m ready. So, I mean, that’s really it, really. That’s where we’re at.

 

What was your experience like trying out and ultimately winning a gold medal with USA Basketball?

USA was a different challenge because there were eleven other guys on the team that could do whatever. I mean, they’re the top eleven guys. It was great to play with guys like Jabari (Parker) and Tyus (Jones). So I had to come in the game and do other things like hustle things. But I ended up starting, that was fun. I got hurt the second game, so I didn’t get a chance to play in the championship game, but it was fun. But when I was playing, I really got along with the players.

Who did you get along with best on the team?

Probably Tyus… he was my roommate. Tyus and Kendrick (Nunn), they’re pretty funny guys. 

 

In terms of position, I put down that you could either be a three or a two, depending on how you develop. What do you feel is your best position?

I like to think of myself as a three, but I can play the two. 

Well, if you like LeBron, you gotta learn to play the three.

(laughs) Yeah, I like to play inside a lot, I like to play in the low-post, and I like to use my body for rebounds. I like to use my body against smaller defenders on the low-post. When I go against bigger defenders, I like to face-up and just shoot right over them. I like to be able to do both things and I try to work on both.

Your mother played at Jackson State. Can you talk about her influence on you with the game?

My mother, she really knows the game, so when I was growing up, I had a coach in my house so I didn’t really have to go far to ask for questions.

So that’s definitely an advantage that you had.

Yeah, definitely. She got me right from the beginning with a ball in my hand because she was a European player as well. It happened prior to the WNBA. 

In France.

Yeah, because there was no WNBA at the time. 

That’s impressive. Now, what position was she?

She was a three and a four. She was able to play inside and out. 

So, she really does know where you should be.

(laughs) Yeah, she doesn’t let me get away with anything. 

You can’t get by on her. 

No, I can’t mess around. (laughs)

 

What would you like people to know about you away from the court?

I’m really goofy. If you ask any of my teammates, I’m always laughing. I’m always making jokes. There’s really no dull moment around me. 

So, you like to keep people entertained?

(laughs) Yeah, yeah.

I heard you visited New York yesterday and I’m not sure if you visited the Hall of Fame, but if so, can  you talk about those two experiences?

We actually went all around town. We went to St. John’s for a little bit. I saw the campus and I got to play a little bit on the courts there. That was really cool. That was fun, but we only got to spend one night there. It was quick. 

I’m from NY so I was interested where you went. I’m sure Coach Lavin was happy to let you guys use their facilities. Someone was describing you as being a really good “team-player” because for certain teams, you bring defense, other teams you bring scoring, you really bring whatever is needed. Do you feel that’s a good description? 

Tonight, unfortunately but obviously, nothing was falling for me. So, I just tried to do whatever I could.

Well, you were three for ten from the field tonight, but you had fifteen rebounds and played good defense.

I feel like could play with a lot of players because I feel like I can bring it, especially with the USA team I have a different role than I do with the Oakland Soldiers.

So, you’re very comfortable with different roles, wearing different hats?

I feel like I can rebound. I’ll grab the ball when the shot’s not falling. I can get steals. I feel like I can play with great players, not-so-great players, and just high school players. 

I heard you picked 41 because you wanted to pick 5 for your mother but that number was taken this year and that you wanted to pick 5 because not only was it your mother’s number, but it also meant grace. Are you going to switch to that next year when it becomes available?

Yeah, my mom told me four plus one means grace. So, my Mom, well, she’s a minister.  I’m a Christian and so I believe in God. I believe in all the things about Christianity..the number 5 and the number 7, things like that. It’s encouraging to think that I have grace.

I hadn’t heard that before. When I was trying to do research on you, it was unusual. Thank you very much.

No problem, man. [/private]