Friday, March 14, 2014

Starting Five: Where does Stanley Johnson rank?

Starting Five: Where does Stanley Johnson rank?

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015
Over the weekend, the nation's No. 3 player Stanley Johnson led Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei to a CIF Southern Section open division championship. Now in pursuit of state title number four, how does Johnson's high school career stack up against other California greats? National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi touches on that and other subjects in this week's Starting Five.

Stanley Johnson is in the twilight of a legendary high school career.
How does Johnson stack up against other Cali greats?
Saturday night, the nation's No. 3 player Stanley Johnson did what he has always done and that's come up big when it mattered most. During a CIF's open division Southern Section championship game, Johnson scored 28 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and sank all eight of his free throws in the fourth quarter to help Mater Dei fight off a scrappy Chino Hills (Calif.) High squad 48-44. Next up, Johnson and Mater Dei will pursue a 4th straight state championship.
Watching the game on DVR Sunday, a few things popped into my head. One, I wasn't the least bit surprised to see Johnson do what he did. As much as any other player in 2014, Johnson has the type of competitive fire and drive that makes him a clutch, money-time player. Second, I started to wonder just where Johnson's high school career stacks up against other stars from the state of California?
Given that I don't live in California and have only been in the business since the summer of 2000, there are probably lots of guys that would need to be discussed like Paul Pierce, Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd, Bill Walton etc. But, I don't have the frame of reference to know where they were as high schoolers or how they did. So, I decided to limit things to the players that I have seen come along.
Among the best Californians I've seen are James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Tyson Chandler, DeMar Derozan, Brandon Jennings (though he didn't finish his high school career in California), Chase Budinger, Russell Westbrook, Dorrell Wright (another who finished his career out of state) and Trevor Ariza. Up until now, I would have said that Jrue Holiday was the best high school player I saw in that bunch. The for now is because as far as I'm concerned, Stanley Johnson should sit atop of the list as best high school basketball player I have ever seen from California. Does that mean he will be able to match those others accomplishments on the college and pro levels? Only time will tell, but there is zero question that Johnson's career will go down as legendary.
How to rate Dusic?
Might as well stick with somebody that is committed to Arizona for this week's second topic. Over the weekend, Dusan Ristic committed to the Wildcats. For those who don't know, Ristic is a seven-footer who arrived at Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian in January to complete his senior season. The Wildcats had found out about him while he was still overseas and laid some serious groundwork to get things done.
So the question is, how do we rate him? For now, this is the plan. Ristic has gone into the system as a four-star prospect but a decision on whether or not to include him and how highly to rank him in the final Rivals150 is yet to be determined. I'm hoping to make a trip down to Bel Aire -- I live just about two and a half hours away -- to see him in person. From what I have seen on film and in some very limited minutes during a televised game his size listing looks legit, he looks to have soft hands and he looks to be quite skilled.
Ahmad one to watch this spring
Over the weekend, Jeff Rabjohns of our Indiana site had a good story on the Hoosiers offering 2015 target Esa Ahmad. Currently, Ahmad is an unranked three-star combo forward, but that will be changing soon enough.

Esa Ahmad is on the rise.
A 6-foot-7 product of Cleveland (Ohio) Shaker Heights, Ahmad doesn't wow with crazy athletic ability, but his feel for the game, rebounding and overall skill level do catch your eye. More and more, college coaches want guys who are willing to sell out for their teammates on both ends of the floor and from what I've seen of Ahmad, he fits that description. He can also make an open jumper and I expect him to draw quite a coaching crowd when he plays in the Sacramento leg of Nike's EYBL with All Ohio Red in late April.
Others who have already offered include Maryland, Cincinnati, Rutgers, West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Miami. Before things are all said and done, I expect that Ahmad will net more high major scholarship offers and he is on his way into the 2015 rankings.
Who is Ted Kapita?
Over the past few weeks, the name Ted Kapita has been coming up a lot. A 6-foot-8 junior from the Melbourne (Fla.) Florida Air Academy, Kapita's name has been very hot with college coaches.
A native of the Congo, Kapita is currently an unranked three-star in the class of 2015. That, however, will change when the 2015 Rivals150 gets updated here in a few weeks and you can expect to see Kapita as a four-star prospect. He is an aggressive rebounder, plays above the rim, can really run and is starting to develop his touch out to eight feet. He's not quite to the level that Thomas Robinson was when he finished his high school career, but he's one of those hard rocking, physical forwards that chases down rebounds all over the floor like Robinson was.
Kapita visited Florida over the weekend and the Gators have to be considered the favorites at this point. Texas is also pretty strong and others like Georgetown, Kansas, USF, Syracuse and Michigan State have offered according to his high school coach Aubin Goporo. Because he isn't expected to play summer ball, he will remain a bit of a mystery man. But, Kapita is somebody that recruiting fans should begin to familiarize themselves with.
Let's talk Nebrasketball
As one might imagine, I spend a lot of time watching college basketball. One team and story that has really caught my attention is what is going on up at Nebraska.
What Tim Miles and his staff have done with that team, their approach and how the players have bought into playing together and selflessly has been quite enjoyable to watch. The ability of Miles and his staff to get the most out of their players and Miles personality have changed the perception about Nebraska hoops and really excited the Cornhusker fanbase.
They appear to be a NCAA tournament team after winning eight of their last nine games and the buzz about Nebraska hoops is building. How will that translate on the recruiting trail? Only time will tell, but for now I'm enjoying watching that team play -- particularly guys like Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields -- and I'm sure Husker fans are doing the same thing.

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