Johnson feels like priority for UK

The comparisons will be inevitable. Position. Body type. Skill set. Relentless competitive spirit on both ends of the floor. One can't help but be reminded of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist while watching one of John Calipari's top recruiting priorities in the Class of 2014, five-star California small forward Stanley Johnson.

HAMPTON, Va. – The comparisons will be inevitable.

Position. Body type. Skill set. Relentless competitive spirit on both ends of the floor.

One can't help but be reminded of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist while watching one of John Calipari's top recruiting priorities in the Class of 2014, five-star California small forward Stanley Johnson.

"They've mentioned that to me before," Johnson said of the Kidd-Gilchrist comparisons after one of his games this past weekend in the Nike EYBL. "But (Calipari) is big about being your own person. There's no pressure on me to be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 pick in the draft. It's going to be hard to repeat that as a player, so he says if I get there, just be my own person and play my game because he likes my game and what I do."

Calipari and assistants Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne could be found near the Oakland Soldiers' games all weekend at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. And Johnson did not disappoint.

Although the Soldiers (3-6) are struggling to adapt after losing a string of elite-level prospects like Kyle Wiltjer, Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon and twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, Johnson is still performing at a high level. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing is averaging a team-high 18.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game.

"I gotta be more of a leader on the court," said Johnson, who is currently rated the No. 17 prospect in the junior class by FOX Sports and Scout. "I gotta take Aaron Gordon's spot. Everybody knows Aaron, a good player for us who, coming in last year led us to the Peach Jam championship, and I want to follow his role this year and do the same."

Some of that leadership is being sought in Lexington, too, after the Wildcats struggled during the 2012-13 season.


John Calipari watched Stanley Johnson during Sunday's play at the EYBL. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
Asked what he likes about Kentucky, Johnson said: "Coach Cal, he's a great person. He's recruiting me really hard at the wing position, and Kentucky's Kentucky. It's a good school and a good program. I just want to get there and visit and see how it is first-hand."

Johnson, who plays for Mater Dei High School in southern California, said he's certain he'll take a visit to UK, but he's not sure about the date yet.

"I gotta get calmed down and stop this AAU thing first," he said, hinting of a visit in the fall rather than the summer. "They're not really pressuring me, and I don't want to rush my decision. I don't want to rush it, but I don't want to take too long, either… I just want to make the right decision."

Many recruiting observers believe Johnson is UK's top priority at the small forward position. He also senses that.

"Yeah, I do," Johnson said. "He really likes me, and he told me straight out that I'm the first guy he offered at my spot, and I'm probably the only guy he's recruiting and offered at my spot.

"I don't know what it is -- he can say anything he wants, I guess -- but his actions show that I'm pretty important to him."

Johnson said it's tough to say no to a program like UK, but noted that there are a lot of wings on the Wildcats' roster right now, including 2013 signees Aaron Harrison and James Young. That group could get even larger if Andrew Wiggins opts to be a Cat, although he's almost a mortal lock to fall into the "one and done" category en route to the NBA.

"I'll have to see what happens there," Johnson said. "But he's a great coach, and he knows how to play multiple wings. I'm pretty versatile myself. I can play the 2 or the 4 as well. We could all play different spots."

Added Johnson: "I know every great kid wants to play with other great kids."

Winning is important to Johnson. He's helped lead tradition-rich Mater Dei to three consecutive state championships. To accomplish that moving forward, he knows he has to play with other elite prospects. He acknowledged one can't ignore the long line of talent that has been lining up to play at UK.

"Something like five No. 1 recruiting classes and Top 10 picks galore," he said. "And it's no gimmick. People think there's some kind of trick with him doing this. There's not. It is what it is. I can't lie to you. There's an opportunity for you: take it or leave it. You gotta want me as much as I want you."

Johnson currently has seven schools on his list. He is also strongly considering USC, Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, Duke and Florida.


AllWildcats Top Stories