With so much focus on the dearth of big men on campus, which will be exacerbated next spring by the graduations of Justin Davis and Joe Kirchofer, there has been very little discussion on the replacement needed in the 2004 class for the wing scoring abilities of graduating senior Matt Lottich. The Chicagoland off-guard had a breakout junior season last year and will be a tremendous offensive force this coming season from all spots on the floor. When Stanford fans witness what Lottich will be capable of doing in 2003-04, only then will it hit them how much they lose when he departs The Farm. That is a great void that Mike Montgomery feels he must fill in this recruiting class.
Just as Lottich was a nationally acclaimed scoring machine in high school and in his AAU/summer performances, so too is another tremendous student-athlete four years later in the 2004 senior class. And even more rare than Stanford landing a top athlete from Chicago, this target hails from the uncharted recruiting grounds of South Carolina. This young combo guard with explosive scoring ability, and both the range and moxie to match his Class of 2000 counterpart, is none other than Top 100 recruit Zam Frederick. If the name rings a bell, that's because his father played at the University of South Carolina a little more than two decades ago, and in 1981 led the entire NCAA in scoring.
The younger Frederick is doing every bit of his part to live up to his father's scoring legacy, averaging 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists per game in his junior season at Calhoun County High School (St. Matthews, SC). He led his team to a 25-4 record and the South Carolina state championship game, but lost a very bitter contest at the buzzer by just a single point. Pushing deep into the postseason is nothing new for Frederick or Calhoun County, though. The school has finished 1st in its region for 19 straight years, and Frederick has played for the school in the last four state championships and won twice.
If you're doing a little mental math and scratching your head at the four title games for a high school junior, that's OK. Frederick ascended to the high school varsity stage at an early age, playing with kids four years his senior while he was in just 8th grade. "My father is our high school coach, and all people could talk about when I was put on the team in 8th grade was that it was all just because he was my dad," the Palmetto State standout explains. "I heard what they all said, so I had to go out and show people that I could play - that I deserved to be on that team. There were a lot of eyes on me that year."
Frederick delivered in magnificent fashion, averaging 10 points per game coming off the bench. Those inquisitive eyes have remained focused on him every game since, though for a different reason: the development of a verifiable superstar. The center of attention has never shied away from the non-stop hoopla. "Every game I play, the spotlight is on me," he acknowledges. "The newspapers and radio people are always wanting interviews, and it never stops. But that comes with the territory. If you aren't ready for that, then you aren't ready to be big time."
His success has continued throughout the AAU season as well, with noteworthy performances this spring and summer with the South Carolina Ravens and at individual camps. The Ravens have enjoyed several standout talents, including Frederick and Ra'Sean Dickey, and consistent success in tournaments. At the Boo Williams, Kingwood Classic and most recently the Peach Jam, the team won their pool and moved into the final rounds of bracket play. Last week's run in North Augusta (SC) at the Peach Jam was probably the most frustrating near-miss in Frederick's quest for a tournament title.
"We were tied with Houston Hoops 70-70 going down to the wire," he begins. "We played tough defense and got a steal in the last minute, but one of my teammates missed a dunk that could have won the game. We had more chances still, but just couldn't get it done. It's something I can't figure out, but we always play these tight games and most of the time have to come from behind. For some reason we don't start playing good basketball until the second half. It's not like we are a bad team; I mean, we have five guys who went to the Nike Camp this summer."
Frederick was one of those Ravens at the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis, and also was invited to the NBPA Camp held in June in Richmond. Both camps are invitation-only, and the NBPA invite is extended to the players Bob Gibbons deems the top 100 high school talents in the country. "I learned a lot of valuable information in Richmond," the guard comments. "They talked to us about what it really takes to make it to the NBA, and just how few people make it there. That was important to hear. But anytime a player touched the ball in games, they would just break from the team and try to score. I wasn't happy because I didn't get to show what I could do. At Nike, though, they have the mandatory four-pass rule which makes it more of a team game. I did well there - shot well and ran the team from the 'one.' I think I showed people that I could handle the ball."
Indeed, Zam Frederick has earned his consensus label as one of the top 100 players in this 2004 class because of his versatile skill set, handling as well as shooting the ball. "You talk to a local reporter about me, and they'll tell you I'm a shooter," he describes. "They'll tell you I'll shoot it from deep, and I don't care how deep I am. I handle the ball really well and distribute well. I'm a combo guard, and that's what most schools see in me. One thing for sure is that I'm deceptively quick because I'm a big guy at 6'2" 210 pounds. People say I look like a football player and not a basketball player, but then I surprise them with my quick first step."
"I'll give you the show you came to see if you watch me," he boasts. But Frederick also recognizes where he has to give more attention in his game. "Offense is easy for me and always has been easy for me, so I try to concentrate on defense. The points will come no matter what, so my goal is to try and shut down the other guy."
With such talents and genes, it is no wonder that this South Carolina stud has incredible local priority for college coaches. South Carolina and Clemson both have had coaches in full view at every turn during evaluation periods this year, and both of course offered him early. Frederick also has scholarships promised to him from UConn, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt. The Stanford Cardinal have been hot on his trail the last several months as well, and he articulates their position perfectly. "With Stanford I have to fill out an application and get admitted for them to offer me, but there's no question they will when that happens."
One bigtime program waiting in the wings who has not yet stepped forward with an offer is Kentucky, but he believes that could change soon. "I've seen Tubby [Smith] watching me and he had this big smile on his face last week at my games. I'm pretty sure he'll offer me the next time we talk," the recruit opines.
With plenty of options (and counting) for the St. Matthews star, that will soon create a tough decision between a national cadre of college suitors. "I'm looking for the best situation for me," he begins. "I want the academics to count - somewhere a degree means something - and a place where I can get seen on the court. I've got to fit in on the court and have the opportunity to play early and display my talents. I'd like a situation that really prepares me for the NBA. But that education is important because you can't count on making it to the NBA. There have been a lot of people around here who have had the talent but not the education to go with it. They haven't ever really gone anywhere in life, and I don't want to be one of them."
School is indeed much more than a vehicle for basketball for this true student-athlete. Frederick currently carries a 4.39 GPA on a 5-point scale and is ranked #2 in his high school class. He has also scored a 1060 on the SAT. "I look at school just like basketball," he says. "I want to be good at it. I don't understand why people don't take school seriously. Honestly, it's a waste of your time to be at school and not handle your business. What are you doing there?"
That academic focus come from home, where Frederick says both his parents are high on Stanford. "They said that Stanford is the best of both worlds - the best education in the country, and you're visible playing Pac-10 basketball. And Stanford always is in the NCAAs," he elaborates. "If I got accepted by Stanford, that would be a big step. It would mean that I have that option and that I deserve to be at any school in the country. If you can get admitted to Stanford, you can get admitted anywhere."
The South Carolina combo guard and top Stanford target says that distance is something he thinks about because of his parents, but may not ultimately influence his decision. "I don't care about being close to home, but my mom says that she'd like to see me," he reveals. "She'd like to see my games, and for me to be able to come home whenever. My dad would like that, too, but it's not as big a deal to him if I pick someplace away from home. If Stanford is the best place for me, then they'll just have to deal with it."
Frederick will be placing a higher focus on his college decision at the end of this AAU summer season and says that he would like to make an early commitment. "I want to have my decision in November in the early signing period," he declares. "The [basketball] season gets started in December and I don't want to be distracted by this. I want to take my official visits before then, once school starts back up."
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