Choosing Ole Miss

Gavin Cecchini chose Ole Miss after visiting the Rebels during the Georgia weekend. But it was way more than just two days in Oxford for a couple of baseball games that helped the elite shortstop from Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., make his decision.

Gavin, currently a high school junior, had been in Oxford before, when his older brother, Garin, visited on a recruiting trip. Garin, also one of the nation's best high school shortstops, chose LSU with Ole Miss a close second.

Their story takes some twists and turns and isn't a clear-cut path. The one constant that remained was their respect for Ole Miss and Coach Mike Bianco.

Garin tore an ACL as a senior in high school in the spring of 2010, missing most of his senior season. He was projected to be a first-round draft pick but ended up being selected by Boston in the fourth round. He went to the pros instead of LSU, signing for 1.31 million after originally having a number of 1.75 million as the figure he wanted.

Gavin, born Dec. 22, 1993, committed to LSU as his brother had done. When Garin signed for less, according to Gavin, LSU began to back off.

"I committed to LSU the beginning of my sophomore year, and I de-committed the beginning of (my junior) year," he said. "To make a long story short, my brother signed for 1.31 (million). He came off his number, which was 1.75 (million). LSU didn't like that."

It affected the relationship with Gavin and his chosen college.

"They said if (Garin) came off his number and signed with the Red Sox, we're going to take your brother's scholarship away. He did just that, but they didn't take it away. But they did lose all contact with me. They stopped sending me emails and inviting me to games. I said, you know what? If they really like me, this wouldn't affect me, because it's nothing that I did. It's my brother's decision, and they're taking it out on me. So obviously they don't like me enough for me to come there to school and for them to not even talk to me anymore. So I knew that wasn't the right fit, and I just moved on and took other visits to find the right fit."

Ole Miss, a place he already knew about with a head coach he and his family knew well, was that fit.

"It's beautiful," Gavin said of Ole Miss. "The coaches are great. The facilities are great. The fans are unbelievable. They're like in-your-face fans, and that's what I really like. It's just nice there.

"And also the girls are beautiful," he added with a bit of a laugh.

Gavin, rated a 10 as a shortstop on a scale of 1-to-10 by Perfect Game, had a list of colleges he could have attended that was lengthy – from Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Georgia in the SEC, to Clemson and Rice and plenty of others.

"I've taken visits everywhere," Gavin said. "This is one of my last ones. I was going to take a couple more, to like North Carolina and Arizona State. But when I came to Ole Miss, I fell in love with it. I know it is the right fit for me. I didn't need to go to any other schools"

Other finalists, according to Gavin, were Texas A&M and Arkansas.

This season Gavin is hitting .500 with 10 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and 34 RBI. Last season as a sophomore he batted .430, also with 10 home runs, a triple, and 24 doubles, the most two-baggers ever for a player in any one season at Barbe.

Gavin Cecchini
This summer he will go to the East Coast Area Code Game, the West Coast Area Code Game, the Under Armour All-American Game, and participate in the Team USA trials, among his many activities, as well as playing in some tournaments with the Southeast Texas Sun Devils.

"I'll only be home for a week and a half, maybe two weeks, out of the whole summer," Gavin said.

Gavin's father, Glenn, has been head coach at Barbe for 25 years. He said he's a believer in Bianco, who he has known since before Bianco's days as head coach at McNeese State in Lake Charles.

"He does a great job and we trust them, and what he's done speaks for itself." Glenn said. "His whole staff does a great job. They sold Gavin."

Glenn, who coached current Rebel Tanner Mathis and former Rebel Justin Brashear at Barbe, said he sees many of the characteristics and traits at Ole Miss that he has in his own powerhouse program.

"Their philosophy is the same as it is at our high school," he said. "They're committed to winning and being the best that they can be. Gavin feels comfortable with that. They're bringing in a great recruiting class for 2011. They're bringing in some great players for 2012.

"We've been a lot of places, and this is no disrespect to anywhere else. It's the people. It's the school. It's just class. They do everything right. We've got a nationally ranked high school program. I want them, my players and my sons, to go to a place that is equal or better than that."

Glenn said the 6-foot-1 and 1/2, 180-pound Gavin is a quality player, one of the best he's coached.

"No disrespect to any player I've coached, but he's on pace to shatter many of the records that have been set at Barbe High School, and I've been there 25 years," he said. "He's as fast as any shortstop I've ever had. He's got the five tools. He can hit for power. He can hit for average. Run. Field. Throw. He can do all those things. He's a real hard-nosed kid with a tremendous work ethic. Lean, strong, physical kid."

Being a shortstop at Barbe could be compared to playing quarterback in football at Ole Miss. It's important and respected.

"Without being arrogant, people call us Shortstop University," Glenn said. "Since 1989, every shortstop that's played at Barbe has been drafted. That's a pretty cool thing."

Glenn knows Gavin will likely be drafted fairly high. For now, they are focused on high school baseball and his commitment to Ole Miss.

"You never know what's going to happen. Time will tell," Glenn said. "Here's the thing I can tell you. Everyone in my family is a college graduate. Gavin is a 4.0 student. Education is very important to them. My boys know they will get their college degree, whether they get drafted and play out of high school, they will go back and get their degree.

"It's the dream of both my boys to play in the major leagues. We haven't even gotten to that point. We're planning on Gavin going to school for three years. It's going to take a lot of money to take Gavin out of his college commitment. That's because we emphasize a college education."

Glenn said Ole Miss is an excellent choice for Gavin.

"I've known Coach Bianco for 20 years. We have a close relationship. One of the reasons Gavin committed to Ole Miss is the trust factor," Glenn said. "When you live in Louisiana, LSU baseball is absolutely huge. It's hard for a kid that grows up in Louisiana not to go to LSU. Garin went on a recruiting trip to Ole Miss and fell in love with Ole Miss. He loved Coach Bianco. They made him a great offer. That was a close second and was a difficult decision.

"When Garin called other coaches (to tell them he was going to LSU), some said OK, some got off the phone real quick. But nobody treated him with the respect that Coach Bianco did. At the end of the day, it was that trust."

And that is as much the reason Gavin Cecchini committed to the Ole Miss Rebels on Sunday as anything else.

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