Johnson: Relationship with Calipari growing

Stanley Johnson says his relationship with Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been getting stronger with each opportunity the coach and player have had to speak.

Stanley Johnson says his relationship with Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been getting stronger with each opportunity the coach and player have had to speak.

The UK boss made a trip to California last week to spend some time with the five-star wing from Mater Dei High School, a player who many analysts believe to be at the top of the Wildcats' wishlist for 2014.

"He came out to see our practice and came by house," Johnson said. "It was fun. I had a real good time just talking to him and getting to know him better.

"That relationship, and my relationship with the assistant coaches, has really gotten stronger every day I've got to be around them."

Asked what Calipari's message was during his latest pitch, Johnson said: "You know, the thing about Coach Calipari, he's been very consistent with his message. He says I'm the guy he really wants to coach, and playing in their program can really help me develop as a player and reach my goals. Aside from that, which wasn't really new or anything, he just talked about getting me ready for my official visit."

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Johnson is currently rated the No. 1 small forward in the senior class by Scout and FOX Sports Next. He is the No. 6 overall prospect for 2014.

Johnson has scheduled to visit UK for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 18. In addition to the Wildcats, he is also considering Arizona, Florida, Oregon and USC. He took an official visit to Arizona, the school many consider to be the leader in his recruitment or at the very least a co-favorite with UK, last weekend.

"Still looking at all of them," Johnson said. "I don't have a leader or anything yet."

His visits will play a key role in sorting out the finalists, and Johnson is eager to see Kentucky's marquee event.

"You hear it's pretty crazy," he said. "It's probably the best event you could see early in the season, before the season starts. I can't wait to see all the fans filling up Rupp (Arena) for that."

During the visit to UK, Johnson will be accompanied by some of the nation's other elite prospects, including Kelly Oubre. The Cats' decision to bring the five-star Texas wing in for the same event raised some eyebrows across the country because the two players are fairly similar on the court.

Does this mean the Cats don't feel as strong about their chances with Johnson, or does Calipari intend to make a John Wall/Eric Bledsoe-type pitch to the duo?

The latter is probably more likely. During an interview with Johnson earlier this summer, he told AllWildcats.com that Calipari felt like there would be situations where he could play anywhere from the 2 to the 4 positions at UK.

"I've been asked about it a lot," Johnson said, "and I tell everybody I'd love to play with Kelly. I've talked about it with him a few times, and that would be no deterrent at all for either one of us. I want to play with great players, and he's a great player."

Kentucky currently has two players on the commitment board for 2014: New Jersey big man Karl Towns Jr. and Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis.

Asked about his reaction to UK adding Ulis at the point, Johnson said: "I've played against him a few times. I respect his game a lot. He might be small, but he makes things happen. He makes the guys around him better, and that's what everybody wants in a point guard."

Johnson's recruitment could also have an impact on UK's 2015 efforts. The Wildcats recently extended a scholarship offer to his Oakland Soldiers teammate, five-star center/forward Ivan Rabb.


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