A year ago at this time, Woodland Hills (CA) point guard Jordan Farmar was just about to get discovered. He had sat out his entire sophomore year of high school basketball at Taft High School, after he and his family had decided to put him in a better academic environment. That missing year deprived him of a lot of exposure, so it wasn't until the following spring on the AAU circuit that he began to get noticed. I was proud to be at the leading edge, watching him blossom on his Double Pump All-Stars squad in April, June and July events. Stanford was one of the very first schools to jump on the young and spindly PG, and the Cardinal looked good in the early stages of his recruitment. As summer turned to fall, Stanford and Gonzaga were the leading candidates for his accelerating recruitment, but anyone who had watched Farmar play knew that would not hold. He was poised for a huge breakout junior season at Taft, which would "explode" his recruitment, as many in the business like to say.
In the meantime, the Cardinal coaches did their best to proactively bring Farmar along and take advantage of their head start. They brought him in for a fall unofficial visit and invited him at several opportunities for official visits during the winter, hopeful that the experience at Maples during a Pac-10 home game could light him on fire. The coaches also put an admissions application in his hand earlier than they had done at any time for any other recruit in Stanford hoops history, recently armed with the support of the Admissions Office that the strongest of applicants could take a crack at applying with their fifth semester grades, rather than the normal six semesters of high school. The hope was that if Farmar finished that application early in the winter, and armed with an SAT north of 1200, he could be admitted early and receive an unconditional offer from Stanford. The hope was that they had a small shot at landing him early before he "blew up."
But that was not to be, as Farmar worked on his application this winter but never completed and submitted it. He just recently sat down with his mother, Mindy Kolani, to discuss upcoming visits from college coaches who are allowed during a period in April to meet with him at his high school. Stanford was scheduled late this month to come in for such a visit, but Kolani wanted to have a heart-to-heart with her son before Mike Montgomery made the trip.
"The coaches invest a lot of time and money into recruiting a player, and I didn't think it was fair for Stanford to continue with that if Jordan wasn't fully engaged with them," she explains. "I had wanted Jordan to fill out that Stanford application for some time, and he had even written a full essay but then decided that he didn't like the subject and would have to start over. I asked him about the application, which he should be submitting to Stanford to continue with this process, and he told me that he really was only working on the application for me. We talked about it, and he said that he just didn't feel the right fit for him at Stanford. It might have been the visit he took, but he has felt something click when he has visited some other places that he didn't feel at Stanford."
So Farmar's mother made the very tough phone call to Stanford Monday afternoon at 4:30 pm, when she reached assistant coach Eric Reveno to share these feelings. The message delivered was that at this point, Farmar does not in his heart have serious consideration for Stanford. And the Cardinal coaches should know that before the invest the time and effort into further recruiting endeavors, including the visit to Taft. Kolani has made phone calls to several college coaches over the last six months, gently thanking them for their interest in her son, but that the interest was not reciprocated. This was her toughest call, yet, though. "Stanford has been my number one choice for Jordan all along," Kolani reveals, "And I have told that to every school we have talked with. I know that Stanford has the best to offer in every imaginable category, and it breaks my heart to have this happen. But this is Jordan's four years and not mine, and I just have to support him and hope he makes a good choice from his remaining options." As to that late April in-school visit, Kolani says that it is up to Stanford if they still want to visit. She tells The Bootleg that Reveno asked if the door could still remain open for them to continue recruiting, should Farmar have a change of heart. That has been granted, and it is now Stanford's decision if they want to make that visit to Taft High School.
This is a prime example of the human element that many times dominates a player's recruitment, but often remains hidden from the public eye. There was a complex intra-family dynamic at play here, which fortunately for them and for the Stanford coaches played out early rather than festering over the next several months. It reminds me a little of the Omar Wilkes recruitment last year, where he had an admissions application early in the spring but never filled it out as spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall. The Cardinal coaches invested a lot of time recruiting Wilkes, only at the last second to have the rug pulled out from under him. The continued desire to not fill out the application was a strong signal then that the SoCal recruit had his heart set elsewhere, only outwardly going through the motions with Stanford unnecessarily. Farmar and his mother at least have been upfront with the Cardinal coaches very early, which gives them ample time to adjust their efforts and who they target.
As for the outlook for point guard recruiting for this 2004 class, I now double my attention on two candidates: Jason Horton and Ronnie Steele. You know plenty about Horton (Cedar Hill, TX) by now, particularly after my in-depth story on him recently, but Steele (Birmingham, AL) has not been a name often discussed. He played on the same AAU team last year as Jai Miller, and he impressed the heck out of me. He was good enough as a rising junior that the Alabama Ice coach would bring him onto the floor in many situations as the point guard and move Miller to the off-guard. And keeping in mind that Miller was seen as a strong enough PG that the Stanford coaches offered him a basketball-only scholarship, you can infer Steele's talent level. Steele was also recognized by Alabama's sportswriters as the state's "Mr. Basketball" as a junior ahead of Miller, which is believed to be the first time a junior has won the award in Alabama. I am unsure of Stanford's interest level in Steele, but they should have seen him last summer when they watched Miller play with the Alabama Ice, and as a standout prep football talent, Steele has been pursued by that Cardinal staff. The latest buzz, though, is that Steele may want to pursue a basketball-only college career, which would make this recruitment different from the Jai Miller sweepstakes. Beyond Horton and Steele, I don't know of any elite PG talents with Stanford academics, but if any a