Gonzaga looking North for Big Man

Ray Schafer has grown to over 6'11" and is a legit 7' in shoes, and his recruiting has grown just as impressively. The high school senior is an important target for Gonzaga.

It was the first warm, sunny day in Wasilla, Alaska, in a week when we caught up with Ray Schafer. The 6'11" star post player had been watching the rain come down while continuing to rest his knee which had arthroscopic surgery performed on it earlier this summer. Ray had a torn meniscus but it is now just about completely healed. But rain or shine doesn't really matter since this self-described gym rat practically resides in his high school gym.

Even though Schafer missed the summer tournaments and camps, interest is running high for his services. The entire Pac-10, save for Arizona, was recruiting Ray but he has now cut his list to six schools.

San Diego State, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon, Gonzaga and Illinois have made the cut thus far, with all schools calling weekly except for Illinois which is expressing interest in writing only to this point. Schafer gave no indication of which school(s) he is favoring the most, but things are bound to become clearer for him when he starts taking official visits in September.

Ray grew up with dreams of being a pilot in the Silver Air Patrol, an elite group of bush pilots that go on daring rescue missions or just supply the outer reaches of the great Alaskan wilderness. Asked if he has watched the start of the famous Iditarod race, he informed us that the race goes right through his hometown which is 50 miles north of Anchorage.

With a 3.6 GPA and still an interest in an aviation-related degree, Schafer has his academics in order. But how does a talented kid in Alaska emerge as a high major basketball prospect?

When Ray was 10 he began playing organized ball. He began attending a local camp where basics and fundamentals were stressed, something too many hoopsters don't get enough of these days. But before that, Ray had a built-in headstart. His father is 6'10" and played for Arizona State in the early 1970's. Schafer and his dad would play on their driveway and the elder Schafer gave Ray a good foundation to build his game on.

He also happened to order a Larry Bird video and noticed Bill Walton in it. So he started buying Bill Walton instructional videos. Then along came Hakeem Olajuwon. Besides his father, these two legendary big men are the guys Schafer has been influenced the most by.

So, has Ray Schafer been watching the Zags lately? "I went to all three of their games in the Great Alaska Shootout last year," he informed us. Gonzaga defeated St. John's of the Big East Conference and Texas of the Big-12 Conference before losing to Marquette in the championship game.

Ray came across as a very articulate, mature young man who can engage anyone in an intelligent conversation. He'll be visiting Gonzaga University soon and Zags Hoops will keep you posted on his recruitment.

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