When the final buzzer went off, Stanley Johnson and the Oakland Soldiers were elated with their Peach Jam title. Not only had they won, but Johnson took full advantage of the extra exposure. He played extremely well during the five-session event, and opened the eyes of a lot of coaches across the country. The 6-foot-5 forward spoke with CuseNation.com about the Peach Jam experience.
"Playing a team with so much talent and athleticism, they play so well together, but it wasn't just a regular game to us," he explained. "They had beaten us earlier in the tournament. I think we were more hungry because they had beat us in Dallas earlier. We were the best team in the country at the beginning of the season and wanted to prove we were still the best. In the game we just kept our composure. We went on our run, they went on their run. We had a good last second play, and (Jabari) Bird came through with some clutch free-throws and we won the game."
Johnson continued, "My coach knew if I got the ball at the top of the key and passed it, my defender wouldn't leave me. So Bird took it out. I got the ball from the top. When I passed it to Bird, he passed it back to me, and Aaron (Gordon) came back on the cross screen. They put Andrew (Wiggins) in the decision where he can go to Aaron or Jabari. We needed a three or a two to go up in the game. So Andrew stayed with Aaron, and Jabari was wide open. He had a short shot, but they closed out. He made the free-throw and that was it."
The ability to showcase your talent in front of a myriad of coaches is an extraordinary opportunity. One Johnson was not going to let slip through his fingers.
"My mom taught me the game and to be an all-around player," he said. "My focus was on doing a lot of things on the court and showing I can do those things. I'm going to be a very versatile player in college, so when I'm on the court I want to show that. I did a lot of things and scored for the team. I got it done."
Johnson knows, however, there is always room for improvement. He doesn't let media praise affect him.
"You take it with a grain of salt and know you can always get better," Johnson noted. "I don't think I played as good a tournament as I could have. There were some games I went through where I missed some shots and other things. I know I have to make those shots and get better. At the end of the day, work on pull-up jumpers because I didn't hit those. It's just the fact that I know I can improve, and getting better is the main thing. I still have a long way to go."
Most major programs had a presence at the Peach Jam. It's understandable with so much talent all over the floor in nearly every game. It was something the Santa Ana (CA) product noticed.
"There were a lot of coaches," the four-star forward described. "There's everybody. I saw Roy Williams there, John Calipari, Coach (Dana) Altman from Oregon. I saw Coach (Sean) Miller, some coaches from Syracuse (Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara), I saw Stanford, Florida. There were so many schools there. Every time the ball went out of bounds, you could look up and read their shirts. It was crazy to see."
Now that the Peach Jam and EYBL is over, it gives all prospects a chance to get back into their recruitment. Johnson has been somewhat overwhelmed at the amount of attention he's received. However, he has a plan on how to gain some focus during the process.
"Right now I'm trying to get every school that's shown interest in me, and write them down on paper," Johnson outlined. "From there I'll have a list. But I want to cut it down and focus on like 10 or 20 schools I am really interested in and focus on them. I will try to do that before the end of August. But I doubt that will happen. Hopefully I will get it done during the high school season. Before Christmas break is my goal."
Continued Johnson, "There's a lot of schools. It depends on which weekend who calls me the most. But I've been hearing from everybody in the PAC-12, Kentucky, Syracuse, just everybody. But that's why I want to cut my list down so I can try to focus on the 10 to 20 schools that I really, really like."
One thing that will not be a factor for Johnson is location. He feels he can play anywhere, and just needs to find which school is the best for him.
"I need to find the best fit for me," he said. "The best school for me. I've spent time out of the country, 35 straight days with USA. So I figure if I can do that, playing on the east coast won't be a problem."