Nwankwo Navigating the Spring

Springtime is a very testing period for top high school basketball stars, with the siren's song of endless AAU tournaments during the school year. That dueling set of priorities is what separates Stanford's recruits from the rest of the prep populace. Talented power forward Davis Nwankwo has such choices and is opting to focus on school...

The last time we updated you on the status of top Stanford basketball recruit Davis Nwankwo, the North Bethesda (MD) junior was about to receive Cardinal head coach Mike Montgomery as a visitor at his high school for a very important visit.  Given that Nwankwo has already proclaimed that Stanford is his #1 choice, and has at least implicitly stated that he would like to commit to the Card when he is admitted to the school, it might seem that this visit would be an exercise in pleasantries - both parties simply going through the motions.  But the one hang-up for the 6'8" athlete and his family about The Farm has been the distance, and Nwankwo told The Bootleg prior to Montgomery's visit that this would be the top topic of discussion.

"The visit went really well," Nwanko begins.  "We held it at my school in the president's office, which was a very nice setting.  Coach Montgomery was there for two or two-and-a-half hours.  He definitely convinced my mother about the distance.  My dad was already convinced, but Coach really made her feel comfortable.  He said that I could come home during vacations - specifically the spring and Christmas.  Plus Stanford plays out on the East Coast every once in a while for preseason games and tournaments."

With that out of the way, Nwanko says that the tenor of the discussions was not all that poignant.  There were or are very few outstanding questions on the family's mind, but instead the visit served as a get-to-know session for the parents to better become acclimated with the man who might watch over their son for four years.  "It was a lot of chit-chat," the power forward reveals.  "Just a chance for my parents to get to know the man.  He talked about himself, what he likes to do and his family.  That was very helpful for my parents."

There was one hot topic, though, which will also interest Stanford and West Coast basketball fans.  Mr. Nwankwo was interested on the future for Montgomery, given the very hot discussion at that time about the crazy chain reaction of head coaching vacancies, with which the Stanford head coach's name was incessantly discussed in the media.  North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and even Illinois were bandied about.  Montgomery gave a clear answer that swiftly short-circuited any doubts within the Nwankwo family.  According to the Georgetown Prep junior, Montgomery replied, "Stanford is the place where I want to finish my career."  That is certainly good news for Stanford recruits and fans, alike.

Another topic of discussion was the admissions process and application booklet for Stanford, which is increasingly weighing on the young forward's mind.  Nwankwo has the application in hand, but is in no rush to turn it in.  "The [Stanford] coaches want me to take my time - to make my essays A+ material.  Perfect with no mistakes," he describes.  The other important components of that application are of course the transcript and board scores, which are the main courses on the student-athlete's plate today.

Nwankwo has passed on all of the spring's tournaments thus far and has notified his AAU coach that he plans on missing the remainder of the schedule through the end of the school year.  "Georgetown Prep is a hard school," he offers.  "I just need to worry about my classes right now.  The basketball will be there during the summer.  I am having some trouble with history, and I've decided with my parents that my time really should be put into school."

The SAT is another key area of concentration right now for Nwankwo.  He took the test in December, admittedly in a poor frame of mind during a holiday AAU event, and was very unhappy with his score.  He finally retook the test in early April and did not have the score back when we last spoke with him.  He did finally obtain the score about 10 days ago, though.  And there was a mixed bag of news.

The good news is that he raised his score 80 points, including a lift in both the verbal and match sections, but he did not achieve his goal of clearing four digits with the score.  "I worked hard preparing for that test, and I was so disappointed when I saw the score," he laments.  "But the Stanford coaches have been wonderful with their support, and they are really encouraging.  They still are telling me that I'm their #1 target.  Coach Montgomery made that clear during his visit out here, and the coaches have reiterated it since.  I was very disappointed in my score, but definitely have a positive attitude about bringing it up.  I want to break 1050 when I next take it, though I'd really like to reach 1100."

Nwankwo is signed up for the June 3 SAT, but with the suggestion of the Stanford staff has also signed up for the June 14 ACT.  "Maybe that test will click better for me," the hopeful junior comments.  "I'm just going to keep trying because Stanford is where I want to commit."

If I may editorialize for a moment, this young man deserves a world of credit for his attitude and actions.  He has fantastic athletic abilities and gifts, and could be completely immersing himself in the crazed world of spring AAU basketball.  But with his head on straight, and with the guidance of very grounded parents, he is making those sacrifices in the pursuit of a Stanford admissions grant.  With scholarship offers in hand from local powers like Maryland and Georgetown, not to mention heavy pursuit from the likes of Arizona, UConn and Miami, it would be easy to cast the cumbersome Stanford application process overboard and seize an easier opportunity.  Davis Nwankwo truly is taking the road less traveled, increasingly so in the ever-intensifying world of year-round roundball.

On top of all that, he is willing to be public about his unwavering desire to attend Stanford above all other suitors, while at the same time being open about discussing the academic risk and toil he is enduring toward that goal.  While his classmates around the country are perfecting their drop-step, reverse dunk or cross-over dribble, Nwankwo is pouring through lists of vocabulary, mathematical axioms and history lessons.

The future is uncertain for his pursuit, but he deserves a cyber-standing ovation for his work ethic and unwavering focus on remaining the consummate student-athlete.

Returning for just a moment to his other recruiting activities, here are a few updates:

  • Miami emerged out of the blue in April and has thrown their hat in the ring with a very vigorous recruitment, including a visit from the head coach to Georgetown Prep
  • Maryland and Georgetown were almost afterthoughts a couple months ago, as Nwankwo looked to experience college away from home, but he now lists them among his favorites
  • Nwankwo says that Arizona "has been stepping up a lot lately," including phone call from Wildcat assistant coach Josh Pastner just the other day.  Zona wants Nwankwo to take a visit by the end of the month, but the family is very iffy on the idea with semester exams approaching

Looking beyond the spring and this hectic junior school year, Nwankwo expects to return to action with the individual Five Star camp held in June in Hampton, Virginia.  It has been tough staying off the court during the spring, but the athletic forward has big plans still ahead for the following few months.  "The summer is very important to me," he says.  "I've had the McDonald's All-American game on my mind for a while now, and the summer will be the time to show myself to people."

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