Anaheim Native Stanley Johnson on His Rookie Year With the Detroit Pistons

In just a single year, Johnson graduated from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, received a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and signed a nearly $3 million contract with the Detroit Pistons. Now the 19-year-old has been signed by Nike and is looking forward to his first Michigan winter. “I can’t remember the last time I saw snow.”

Johnson’s mother, who died in August after battling breast cancer, played a significant role in preparing him for his achievement as the Pistons’ first-round pick (eighth overall) in the NBA draft in June. Karen Taylor was a star player at Jackson State University in Mississippi and played professionally in Europe. “She would say that we all had to ‘go get it,’” says Johnson. “I always had faith that I could make it if I put forth the effort.”

Playing at Mater Dei taught him discipline and the notion of doing things the “right way,” he says. “Though I was one of the top recruits in my class, I was never treated as if I was the best player ever. I was treated equal to everybody else.”

He received a four-year scholarship to the University of Arizona, where he studied business. Despite leaving college as a freshman, he plans to finish his education. “I’ll take one or two classes during this year; I’ll knock it off as strategically as I can,” he says. “But if it’s affecting my job, then I’ll have to cut back. I left college to focus on basketball, and that’s the focus right now.”

“I watch a lot of basketball, and I think everybody’s game is like a painting,” he says. “I try to make my painting by borrowing some people’s colors and some people’s strokes to be the best Stanley Johnson, instead of being the next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant.”

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