Documenting Stanley Johnson’s Rise from Momma’s Boy to the NBA
Stanley Johnson’s hoop genes came from his mother, Karen Taylor. Ms. Taylor played college basketball at Jackson State University and went on to play professionally in Europe.
After her playing career, she coached Johnson on her So Cal Tigers AAU Team for nine years from kindergarten to high school.
She thought of literally everything when developing Johnson’s game. A Sports Illustrated article details just how thorough she was in preparing Johnson for the big stage.
"When he was a little bit older, she’d sit him in front of his teammates and pepper him with interview questions. Rehearsal with media was part of the job."
The odds of making it to the NBA are at least 5,000 to 1! Ms. Taylor had so much faith in her son that she prepared him to be interviewed like an NBA player!
Johnson went on to enroll at Mater Dei High School, one of the premier high schools in the state of California. Longtime Mater Dei Boys Basketball coach Gary McKnight said Johnson worked out with the late, great Kobe Bryant after basketball practice.
Wow! A young Stanley Johnson got to work out with THE Kobe Bryant!
Mater Dei won four consecutive CIF state championships with Johnson earning first-team all-state honors in each of his seasons in high school.
Johnson went on to star for the University of Arizona alongside Indiana Pacers point guard TJ McConnell, who had this to say about the incoming Mater Dei star.
"“When I first saw him I was like, ‘There’s no way that kid is a freshman,’” McConnell said. “He’s a genetic freak. I thought he might be the answer to us getting to a Final Four. Then I saw him play and yep, he’s definitely the answer. I mean, he’s basically unguardable.”"
McConnell was one game away from being proven right! Johnson, who won the Julius Irving award as the NCAA’s top small forward, led Arizona to an Elite 8 appearance in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. They lost to Wisconsin and their star big man Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky, now the third-string center for the Phoenix Suns.
A few months later, Johnson was selected eighth overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2015 NBA Draft. His mother, dying of cancer, was sitting right next to him as Johnson was selected.
Her life’s work complete, she sadly passed away shortly before Johnson’s rookie season. The personal heartache for Johnson ended up bleeding into his professional basketball career.