Earlier Sunday, USA Basketball announced the members of the Under-18 national team, with the group led by Florida head coach Billy Donovan and assistants Sean Miller (Arizona) and Ed Cooley (Providence) now preparing for the FIBA Americas Championships to be played next month. One of the players on the roster is 6-foot-6 guard Stanley Johnson, one of the nation’s best recruits who will play his college basketball next season.
Possessing a skill set that allows him to impact the game in a variety of ways, Johnson is a player seen by many as one who will have an immediate impact next season. And while the time with USA Basketball this summer will certainly help matters, his senior season at Mater Dei HS in southern California has also set the stage.
In a story written by Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, Miller touched on the strides Johnson has made as a result of his having to play some point guard at Mater Dei this past season.
“I think Stanley is a very underappreciated ballhandler and passer,” Miller said. “He’s played against every player you can possibly imagine, and one of the things that’s really developed is his ability to handle the ball and pass.
“For somebody of that size, it’s quite a difference. … He has one of those bodies not everyone has.”
Obviously Arizona has its starting point guard, with T.J. McConnell returning for his senior season, but it never hurts to have more than one playmaker on the perimeter. Johnson can play that role, and it’s an important one with the Wildcats needing to account for the early departure of Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson.
Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon are certainly noteworthy losses for Arizona, which fell a couple points short of its first Final Four appearance since 2001 in an Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin. Yet expectations remain high in Tucson due to the return of every other key contributor, and the addition of a talented crop of newcomers led by Stanley Johnson.
Stanley will have every opportunity to be a major factor for the Wildcats when he arrives on campus, and based upon the reviews from Colorado Springs it sounds as if he’s well on his way to making sure he’s ready to take advantage this winter.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.