CHICAGO — Any Arizona Wildcats fans who are still in shock, still wondering about that offensive foul call on Nick Johnson, still wondering what might have been at the Final Four this weekend, aren’t alone.
Stanley Johnson feels the same pain.
“They had a great season. I thought they had a great game against Wisconsin,” the Arizona signee said, after playing in the McDonald’s All American Game on Wednesday. “Nick had a good (final) shot. I thought he had a great look at the rim. I thought they made a terrible call on the push-off.”
In Sacramento, Calif., to help Mater Dei High School win the California State Open Division title while UA played Wisconsin last Saturday, Johnson couldn’t be at Honda Center as he was for the UA-San Diego State game two days earlier.
Nor was he able to visit any further at the Wildcats’ hotel in Anaheim, Calif., adjacent to his Fullerton hometown.
So Johnson said he called and texted instead, to guys such as Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon, offering support after the game.
“They were so close,” Johnson said. “To be this close to winning it, and not winning it, that’s crazy.”
“It didn’t fall for us but that’s just a motivation for next year.”
Not that Johnson needs a lot of motivation. Concord (Calif.) De La Salle coach Frank Allocco found that out when he tried to escort his McDonald’s West team out of practice earlier this week.
“When practice ended, he wanted to just keep working on his game,” Allocco said. “He took about 100 shots. The lights went out and I’m feeding him (balls to shoot) in the dark. I’m thinking what a beautiful scene this is.
“Arizona’s got a great one in that kid, one of the finest kids I’ve ever seen in my life. And he’s going to get better.”
Next season, Johnson could be that guy you isolate for a last-second shot and could be one of the Wildcats’ leading scorers, but it’s not certain quite yet where he will fill in.
But while the expectation is that Johnson plugs into a wing spot if either Nick Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson leaves for the NBA, he’s not quite ready to go there.
Arizona could lose up to four players to early NBA draft entry, and while Johnson and Aaron Gordon are expected to leave, Stanley Johnson isn’t making any assumptions yet.
“I can’t make any comments until I know what the roster is,” Johnson said. “I don’t know who’s leaving and who’s going.”
Johnson said he’s steered clear of putting any sort of pressure on them, or asking about what they might do.
“You know what? My philosophy is if you think you’re leaving for the NBA, please make your move and go,” Johnson said. “If I could do it, I would too. But that’s their decision. Of course, I want them to stay but for me personally I’m not going to affect their decision.”
But while he had no idea what the Wildcats exactly will look like, Johnson was still optimistic about what they know they will have.
Starting guards T.J. McConnell and Gabe York will return, while the well-regarded five-player recruiting class Johnson heads also includes potential rotation players in juco shooter Kadeem Allen, 7-footer Dusan Ristic, 5-8 playmaker Parker Jackson-Cartwright and 6-7 power forward Craig Victor.
“I can bring scoring, Gabe’s not a bad player either and Elliott Pitts — we have some good players,” Johnson said. “Brandon (Ashley, injured forward) is coming back and Kaleb (Tarczewski) might come back.
“So we’ll see what happens. We’ll be pretty strong regardless. I know whatever team we have we’ve gotta rock out with it and play. Coach (Sean) Miller is a great coach. I think he’s one of the best in the country, so we’ll figure it out.”