LAS VEGAS— There were more than 2,000 teams playing in the last summer basketball tournament of the year, and there were thousands of potential college prospects here last weekend at the Las Vegas Live, but none loomed as large as Stanley Johnson of Mater Die High School.
Johnson, a 6’6 swingman was playing for the star studded Oakland Soldiers club team for the final time before he enters into his senior season for coach Gary McKnight’s Monarchs in the fall.
He is arguably the best player in the class of 2013-’14, but without argument he is the best basketball player in the history of the storied Mater Dei, which has captured more California State titles than any other school.
That being said, Johnson will begin his senior season this fall after leading Mater Dei to back-to-back CIF- State championships, but there is more work to be done for this wunderkind who is already drawing comparisons to some of the best NBA players.
“This is just the beginning. High school is just the beginning of your career and I really haven’t done anything yet. A lot of high school players who are top rated and top in the country and All CIF and all that kind of stuff have dropped off,” Johnson told the Sentinel during an exclusive interview.
“I come from a school where a lot of kids have done that, but I am happy to be playing AAU and I have a lot of work that needs to be done to improve my game.”
Hundreds of college coaches are drooling over him just as he is, a sure fire McDonalds All American selection and a potential one and done collegiate star.
Two NBA agents who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Johnson is one and done.
However, don’t tell him that because he has already been declared the best Mater Dei player ever at a school that has a reputation of producing high school stars, but not beyond that.
While many have gone onto to Division I colleges from the Orange County school, few have garnered headlines after they left.
One can go down the list of former Mater Dei hoop standouts for the incomplete report card; Miles Simon (Arizona), Taylor King (Duke/Villanova), The Wear Twins at UCLA, David and Travis, Cedric Boseman (UCLA and overseas) and of course the best ever Schea Cotton who was State Player of the Year as a freshman and but never played in an NBA game.
“One thing for sure is that I am different than all of the players that have ever been there, and my coaches have told me that I am the best player to ever come out of Mater Dei and I’m just a junior. I’m going to break that trend. It starts with me and I am going to be happy to break that trend,” Johnson explained following an Oakland Soldier route.
He concluded that,” it’s a mystique that will not be on me, and I am the era of it changing.”
Johnson’s ability to put the ball on the floor, raise from three-point range with accuracy, block shots and rebound has drawn comparisons to some of the Southern California Greats.
Cotton comes to mind, so does the late Raymond Lewis of Verbum Dei, “Big” John Williams of Crenshaw, Dwayne Polee of Manual Arts just to name a few, but he doesn’t have to play against any of those players.
He only has to be better than the guys that take to court with him, and in that regard he is a man among boys.
He averaged 16 points per game during his junior year and 8.2 rebounds, but he also averaged 3 steals and collected 15 rebounds during the state championship game that featured Drew Gordon considered one of the top seniors of his class.
Johnson says that he considers himself his own man, but does pattern his game after Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dewayne Wade and James Harden who does a lot of things well. James also played club ball with the Soldiers.
His No. 1 fan is his mother Karen “Big Momma” Taylor who is enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Jackson State.
“She’s the one who taught me how to play basketball,” he states candidly.
“She coached me when I was little. She brought me into the game. She’s the number one person in my life. She played the game of basketball and she did it herself. She taught me the game of basketball from the age of three. She’s been good enough to let me branch out and do my own workouts. She’s more on the school side and the personal side now. She makes sure that I take care of my business in school. I have a good relationship with her,” Johnson added.
His father, Stanley Johnson Sr., was also a former player and attends his games regularly.
The Soldiers lost in the championship of the tourney to a team led by his former Mater Dei teammate Shaquan Aaron, but many fans crammed into one air-conditioned gym after another to escape the dry hot desert sun, to see Johnson play. Not only did college recruiters want to be there, but so too did his many peers.
Now, comes the hard part of selecting a college. Johnson has scholarship offers from powers Arizona, Syracuse, Kentucky, NCAA champion Louisville, North Carolina State, UNLV, San Diego State, UCLA and USC.
The waiting game for all of his college suitors will be excruciating. After all where he lands will be a launching pad for him and the program, but chances are it will only be for one season.