Stanley Johnson is used to being the alpha male and although that may eventually be the case in college, it has not come as easy as he may have originally anticipated.
“I don’t think I have fully adjusted yet to be honest,” Johnson said. “There’s still a lot of stuff that we do as a team that I am not specifically good at yet.
“I think I have gotten a lot better since I got here and I know Coach Miller and I had a meeting halfway through the season and he challenged me to get better every day even just a little bit and I think I have been fulfilling that part of it ever since that meeting.
“I still have a long way to go as a player, but I think I have definitely gotten better.”
The meeting between Miller and Johnson was more of a reality check than anything.
“He needed to do a better job working every day,” Miller said. “He didn't know how hard college basketball was. None of these guys do. But to his credit over the last four to six weeks he has really turned that part around.
“I think his teammates respect him a great deal and all of a sudden he plays like he played here and that’s what happens when you honor the process.
“He’s doing a better job of making every day important and not cutting corners. That is why he came to college, so he gets better on and off the court and I think he is really doing that.”
Johnson has already gotten better since the start of the season and a lot of that has been because he has taken well to teaching.
“When you have a player like him that is already given so many accolades before he even plays a game or practices, there is a fine line of bringing his talent along and at the same time teaching him,” Miller said.
“I would say over the last four or five weeks Stanley as a player in our program has really become more of a student. He practices hard, makes mistakes, tries to learn from them and that spurred him on to I think where he played in this tournament.”
One aspect of Johnson’s mentality that has not change is how much he wants to win and that attitude is shared by his teammates.
“The game is a lot more intense, a lot more energy used, a lot more effort,” Johnson said. “At the end of the game you come up short here, you go home with a really bad taste in your mouth.
“We have a lot of guys that don’t like losing here and that helps me out. I am the same way and as they go I go.”
As well as Johnson has played as of late, Miller believes he will continue to progress throughout the season.
“If we would have played in this tournament a month ago, he would not have been the MVP,” Miller said. “What I hope happens is a month from now that he is even more consistent on defense and some of the things we’re going to need him to be for our team to grow.
“We’re pleased with Stanley as much as anything because he is on the right track, being very coachable, being a good teammate, and working hard.”