Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon

2014 small forward Stanley Johnson to officially visit Kentucky, four other schools

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One of the best players in the Class of 2014, small forward Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei HS) has been a popular figure on the grassroots scene this offseason. Possessing a high level of skill on both ends of the floor, Johnson is a Top 10 prospect in the eyes of most major scouting services. 

And with graduation less than a year away, it’s time for Johnson to make some decisions in regards to where he’ll take his five official visits as allowed by NCAA rules. On Sunday, Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Johnson has decided which five schools will host him on official visits this fall

Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 226-pound player ranked as the nation’s No. 7 prospect by, plans to take official visits to Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, Florida and Oregon and will take unofficial visits to nearby Southern California and UCLA. Those trips to the Los Angeles schools will include overnight stays at hotels and be treated like official visits in Johnson’s mind; his family is just going to pay for them out of pocket.

In regards to Kentucky, Johnson’s the lone 2014 small forward currently holding an offer from head coach John Calipari. That’s a clear indication of how much of a priority he is to the Kentucky coaching staff, and recent history shows that more times than not the Wildcats end up reeling in high-level prospects that they’ve decided to devote their full attention to. 

Johnson’s official visit to Kentucky will coincide with “Big Blue Madness,” the program’s season-opening event that sells out Rupp Arena on an annual basis, and his other visits will be on the same weekend as those schools’ biggest preseason showcases.

Johnson has tentatively scheduled dates for some of his official visits: Arizona on Oct. 12 for its Red-Blue game, UK on Oct. 18 for Madness and Florida on Oct. 30. He is considering a Kansas visit the weekend of Oct. 4 for Late Night at the Phog – KU’s version of Midnight Madness – and said five-star Chicago power forward Cliff Alexander is planning to see Lawrence then, too. (Alexander is also a UK target.)

Johnson said Oregon’s coaches want him to come the weekend of a big football game, so that visit date is still to be determined.

Johnson isn’t expected to make his decision on a school until January at the earliest according to the story, and from a skill standpoint he has the ability to be a game-changer for whichever program he commits to. 

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.