My dream five official visits

After months of covering the world of basketball recruiting, I decided I wanted to see for myself just how nice it would be to go on five all-expenses-paid official visits to the nation's premier programs. Here's what happened.

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I was allowed to bring one person with me on each trip and I went into each visit with a clear and open mind, ready to let THEM persuade me as best they could to play for their school.

{NOTE I: I didn't visit Arizona because I've lived here for the last 21 years and I know all about the school, program and coaching staff.}

{NOTE II: I am a 6-2, 175-pound point guard that graduated from high school seven years ago. This is all fictional...but it IS based on true events or recruiting patterns.}

Visit #1: Duke (Durham, NC)
*Met with Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski and talked about Duke's winning tradition: the three national championships in the last 11 years, the nine Final Four berths in the last 15, the four National Players of the Year from Laettner to Williams.
*Experienced a mini-version of "Krzyzewskiville" where the student body camps out in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first chance at game tickets. The fans were very knowledgeable and even chanted my name when we walked by. Inside the actual arena I found that it was very small but I could see how loud it gets because of the acoustics. The banners, though overdone (but not as bad as North Carolina), were impressive as well.
*Had to sit down with Dick Vitale at one point during the visit so he could "better explain the privilege of playing for the Dukies and Michael the Magnificent!" Apparently Duke has Vitale sit down with each of their prospective recruits on their visits and it must work considering the types of classes they've been landing lately. I, however, was thoroughly unimpressed. And it didn't help that right afterwards…
*Coach K offered my 15 year old brother a scholarship on the spot after watching him make two of three free throws in an empty arena. "He's got a huge upside!" K said. The only thing I could think of was DeMarcus Nelson, whom none of the Duke coaching staff had EVER seen play yet still offered and accepted a verbal commitment from the sophomore from Vallejo, California. My brother, thank god, said he actually liked schools that lived up to expectations and said he'd already committed to Maryland.
Final Decision on Duke: I realized I could never play for a team that has two coaches whose names I can't spell: "K" and "Wojo".

Visit #2: Kansas (Lawrence, KS)
*Roy Williams actually IS that nice of a guy. He is genuine and honest and I could tell that he really cared about what I did with the next four years of my life. We went out back of his office on an amazing wooden deck and he barbecued for me, my best friend Tim Haskell and a few of the current Jayhawk players. He's a damn good cook if I may say so my damn self.
*We went inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse and it impressed me tremendously. Seeing Wilt Chamberlain's retired jersey is enough to do that to someone so interested in sports history. The 1988 National Championship banner made me bitter because that was Arizona's to lose.
*I got along really well with Kansas sophomores-to-be Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien. They're all good guys and Langford is going to be a superstar in the very near future.
*I thought about actually having to live in Lawrence for the next four years and I scared myself silly.
*In what was a very sad moment, I thoughtlessly asked to see Roy's national championship ring. Needless to say, tears were shed. He said something about Paul Pierce leaving too early and that he'd "get" Arizona and Maryland if it was the last thing he did because they stole his rings.
*It also didn't further KU's cause when Roy said he wanted me to play for him so much that he'd be willing to offer my best friend Tim a scholarship too.
Final Decision on Kansas: Too cold in Lawrence, not enough Final Fours over the past ten years for my taste and grown men not named Dick Vermeil crying regularly worry me.

Visit #3: North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)
*An unbelievable amount of banners and jerseys hung from the rafters in the Dean Dome. Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, they all had their numbers retired up there. It was very impressive.
*A good recruiting class, led by National Player of the Year-to-be (at some point in his career) Raymond Felton, gave me reason to believe that UNC was back on the upswing after a dismal, humiliating and downright embarrassing 2002 season.
*While my dad and I were walking around campus one afternoon, a fight broke out between rival Carolina and Duke fans. The funny thing was that while they were fighting, a group of Maryland students came around and walked away with their girlfriends.
*Something about Tar Heel head coach Matt Doherty just isn't right. I can't explain it better than that.
Final Decision on North Carolina: Eight and twenty. Enough said.

Visit #4: Chaminade (Maui, HI)
*I never understood why more recruits didn't choose to visit the Islands so I took my girlfriend, Jessica Alba, to Lahaina, Maui for a weekend of fun in the sun. And, oh yeah, some serious basketball talk with the Chaminade coaching staff.
*We surfed, we snorkeled and we stayed in a very nice little bungalow-deal right off the beach. The Silver Sword coaching staff wanted me to play some pick-up games with their current players but I told them I was still hungover from all of the partying Jessica and I had done the night before. I couldn't understand why they were upset. It's freakin' Maui, what do they expect?
*We saw a bunch of migrating whale pods a mile or so off the beach while we went on our unscheduled glass-bottom boat ride (Chaminade's coaches didn't like that either). It was nice because since I'm from Tucson the only whales I ever get to see are the ones that frequent the local all-you-can-eat buffets by the Foothills Mall.
*I had a great time golfing Kapalua while the coaches formed a search party trying to find me. When they did find me, Jessica and I were just about all the way back down from our hike up Haleakala, a 12,000-foot dormant volcano about an hour and a half out of town. They were not happy.

*I really didn't learn too much about the Chaminade basketball program while I was there. In fact, I left not knowing for sure whether or not the Silver Swords are even based on Maui. And the whole Division II thing made me lose interest, too. I mean, who would I be playing against, ASU and who else?
Final Decision on Chaminade: I don't think an elite level recruit like myself would fit in there, especially with that slavedriving coaching staff always wanting you to play basketball. But, I HIGHLY recommend taking an official trip there!

Visit #5: Stanford (Palo Alto, CA)
*Maples Pavilion is old, small and sadly not up-to-par with all of the rest of Stanford's gorgeous athletic facilities (football stadium definitely NOT included).
*I think I saw about six students on campus during the Friday afternoon tour the Stanford coaching staff took me and fellow top 25 prospect Brad Allis on. I know you have to be smart to get into Stanford, and I am (I got at least a 600 on my SAT), but if fewer than a dozen actual students make up the population base on "The Farm", maybe they should relax the admission standards.
*The campus is hands down the best I've ever seen across the nation. When they talk about "going away" to college, Stanford was what they had in mind. The campus has its own main entrance and it's at least a mile until you get to any buildings on the actual campus. You are in a whole other world at Stanford, surrounded by huge trees, and land that resembles more of a ranch than a farm. The buildings and the architecture is second to none, especially the Roosevelt Tower (over 250-feet tall) and the Stanford chapel. As for the facilities, well, I've never seen anything quite like Stanford's aquatic center or Tennis stadium (think, Wimbledon). And how many colleges can boast their own Astroturf field hockey area and about a dozen grass practice fields? There is not another school that can compare to Stanford.
*The academic advisors and tutors that I spoke with said that they work with each student-athlete so that it's almost impossible to not wind up with a degree after four years at school. A degree from Stanford assures future employment and looks great on a résumé.
*It helped that I met and wound up proposing to Logan Tom, the Stanford Olympic Volleyball star. That was enough to secure my commitment to the Cardinal.
Final Decision on Stanford: See you in September.

[Editor's note: I really enjoyed my visit to Stanford, but I also went to Pepperdine, Tulane, UNLV and UC-Coronado Island. In the end I took the big bonus money and will join the WWF's cruiser weight division, since no one wanted a 5-6 "power point guard".]

{Ben Hansen can be reached via e-mail at}

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