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Why Stanley Johnson is the Best Freshman in the Country

October 29th, 2014 News 8 Comments

Martin Hayvush

There are a lot of talented newcomers to college basketball. With all due respect to this crop of soon to be lottery picks, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson stands out as the best.

That’s quite a claim to make. But it’s easily defendable, unlike Johnson himself.

The biggest obstacle that freshmen face is physical. The strength, speed, and athleticism of the college game is a stark contrast to the loose feel of high school and AAU games.

But Johnson is one of the very few players who enters college not only with a frame ready to compete physically, but one that could allow him to dominate from day one.

There just aren’t many human beings on the planet who can move the way Johnson does at 6-7 and 245 lbs. His sheer mass and strength are impressive, but it’s his mobility and agility at that size that makes him uniquely equipped to handle the college game.

That combination of physical ability is a hallmark for success at the college level.

Another area where Johnson separates himself is his ability to create off the dribble. While some of his freshman counterparts (Jahlil Okafor of Duke, Cliff Alexander of Kansas) may be dominant post players, they are also reliant on teammates to get them the ball in scoring position.

Johnson, however, is a one man wrecking crew.

His ability to handle the ball and attack is what makes him unguardable. There just aren’t many defenders who have the speed to stay in front of him and the strength to hold their own near the basket. There are a lot of defenders with one or the other, but having both is a rarity in the college game.

Of course, Johnson will be on a loaded Arizona team next year, with other McDonald’s All-Americans playing beside him. And the Wildcats play an exceptionally balanced style of play, never relying too heavily on a single player.

So Johnson’s statistics may not jump off the page outside of good scoring and rebounding numbers. Chances are no one on this Arizona team will put up eye-popping stats, there’s just too much talent and only one ball. But Miller recruits the type of players who are willing to make that sacrifice.

And just because Johnson may not average the most points doesn’t mean he won’t be the best freshman in the country.

His ability to contribute in multiple phases of the game will be on display in Miller’s versatility-friendly system. Most importantly Johnson has great defensive versatility, another unique advantage he has over the country’s top newcomers.

At the end of the day, however, success is measured in wins. If Arizona realizes their team potential, they should be among the winningest teams in the country, and Johnson could be a huge part of why the Wildcats reach that level.

That can be another distinction Johnson adds to his already full trophy case.

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8 Responses to “Why Stanley Johnson is the Best Freshman in the Country”

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  1. LWash

    October 30, 2014

    This is a very nice article. I think Stanley Johnson will a force on the team. I saw him at the red blue game The more he listened to the coaches and ask questions the better he got and the more scores and rebounds he put up on the board. He also played better as part of the team.I hope he continues to develop to his full potential. He has a lot to offer.

  2. nightwave

    October 30, 2014

    Well written article. Because of Arizona’s balanced system last season it took quite a while for the media and other coaches to recognize Nick Johnson for how good of a player he was. So it will again, with Duke feeding Okafor, puffing up his point totals. It sure helps to endure the misperceptions when the voice of reason is sounded before the misperceptions even get started.

  3. Papadeuce

    October 30, 2014

    If Stanley takes it upon himself to play the team game that miller preaches he will certainly be the most valuable freshman in the nation. We’ll ask a lot of him this year and he’s obviously up for it physically and mentally, I just hope he buys in. It’s gonna be fun as hell to watch him play this season, that much is fact!

  4. mvpreed2

    October 30, 2014

    It is going to be very interesting to see how his progression comes along and how things get settled.
    Is he going to be a day one starter penciled in at SG?
    Or is he going to come off the bench as a SG/SF reserve that gets starters minutes a la Rondae last season?
    So many unanswered questions regarding this team that I am eager to see play out on the floor.

    Basketball season cannot come soon enough.
    Is it mid-November yet?

  5. Dawgs 2nd Cousin Jasper

    October 30, 2014

    In terms of freshman i have to agree, 1:1 against any other freshman in the nation i’d take Stanley. He’s a kid in a mans body right now, 6% body fat and 240~ far too unstoppable. Really hope he enjoys his time in college for the year and collectively works towards a Nat’l Championship.

  6. Jeff

    October 31, 2014

    I’m really eager to witness Stanley’s size mismatch in action against defending SGs.

  7. ChiTownCatFan

    November 1, 2014

    I agree that being physically prepared to compete at college level and adjust to size, speed etc. is important. But I think an even bigger difference is learning to defend and play within a defensive system at the collegiate level vs high school. Most of these top recruits have had the ball in their hands most of their high school career and know how to score. Being able to rotate defensively and move their feet and maintain focus on defense has kept more freshman on the bench than any physical deficiency. If Stanley buys in defensively, the rest will fall into place for him.

  8. Orion

    November 4, 2014

    I do believe that some sports analysts will continue to look at players individual stats as the sole basis for judging them. Dino Gaudio, of ESPN, said Pac 12 Newcomer of the year will be Kevon Looney. He said that Looney will have bigger numbers for UCLA than Stanley will have for Arizona…..Duh. Nice call, Dino. Of course, on a UCLA team, which obviously does not have balance, Looney is going to have free reign to go out and score at will. Stanley will be asked at Arizona to fit into a balanced attack. This shows some pretty short sighted analysis by Gaudio to compare these freshmen on two teams with different playing styles. That’s why Aaron Gordon didn’t have numbers to compare with Wiggins and the Duke freshman last year. And Arizona went farther in the big dance because Aaron played within a balanced system. And an ESPN analyst…go figure…duh.

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