Arizona freshman wing Stanley Johnson today announced his expected decision to leave the Wildcats after one year for the NBA Draft.
However, UA coach Sean Miller said Kaleb Tarczewski probably will not finalize his decision for another day or so. Players have until Sunday at 9 p.m. to declare for early NBA draft entry, though Tarczewski has been expected to stay in school.
Johnson announced his decision at a UA news conference along with Miller. Draft Express has Johnson pegged as the No. 9 pick in the June NBA Draft, which would mean Johnson would be guaranteed about $4.5 million over his first two seasons.
"I have no doubt he'll be a high pick and go on to have a long career in the NBA we'll be proud of," Miller said.
Johnson is the third Wildcat to have left the program early this spring, after Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley did earlier this month. But UA coaches have long expected three or four players would leave school early, signing a Top 5-rated four-man class in the fall while pursuing graduate transfers this spring.
Johnson was a projected one-year college player since before he committed to the Wildcats in November 2013, but his long delay to make an announcement drew speculation he was considering staying.
"I put a hell of a lot of thought into coming back," Johnson said. "For me the first week after the season was over it was like 'What’s going on and for me it was like let's go I want another shot at doing this.' People were saying NBA draft, but I was like `I'm not done yet.' But at the end of the day you gotta make the right decision. I put a lot of hard thought into it."
Johnson said it was also hard to leave because UA teammates, coaches and fans showed him an "overwhelming" amount of support.
Johnson’s high school coach, Gary McKnight, told the Star last week he had recommended Johnson remain at UA and said he was encouraged that Johnson was still taking spring classes.
“To me that’s a good sign that he’s seriously considering coming back,” McKnight said. “I’ve encouraged him to say. He’s only 18 and an extra year of college basketball can put him in the top echelon. And he really enjoys college.”
Johnson was UA’s leading scorer as a freshman, averaging 13.8 points a game while also becoming the Wildcats’ second-leading rebounder at 6.5. He shot 44.6 percent from the field overall, 37.1 percent from three-point range and made 74.2 percent of his free throws.
Earlier today, UA lost out on Drexel grad transfer Damion Lee, who announced via Twitter that he will play for Louisville next season. But the Wildcats are still pursuing San Francisco grad transfer Mark Tollefsen, a forward who visited UA last weekend along with Lee.
Tollefsen tweeted today that he had “a lot on my mind … But I always get it right!”
Meanwhile, Tarczewski's former coach and mentor, John Carroll, said Tarczewski might not make an announcement of any sort if he decides to stay.
"He's just kind of been figuring out what he’s doing, what his role is next year ...who’s going in the draft and who's not," Carroll said.
If Tarczewski returns, the Wildcats will have two more scholarship openings for next season. UA has four signed recruits as of now, all from high school: Guards Justin Simon and Allonzo Trier, wing Ray Smith and power forward Chance Comanche.
Miller said he expected he would add no more than one more player for next season.