While July may be the most action-packed and exhilarating time in college basketball recruiting, there is no month more manic than September. All the changes that transpired during the summer build up into this commitment-filled month when so many top players make their final decisions on schools. The uniqueness of this month is primarily defined by official visits, which are popping at campuses across the country. The biggest visit weekend of this 2004 recruiting class for Stanford Basketball is just days away, when Mike Montgomery will welcome Zam Frederick, Taj Finger and Peter Prowitt to campus.
All three recruits will travel from the East Coast, and all three fly out Thursday night. NCAA rules dictate that official visits cover no more than a 48-hour period starting when a recruit first steps on campus, so this trio will stay off campus at their hotel that evening. The meat of the experience will come all-day Friday and Saturday, with the clock starting Friday morning when they come to campus. All three will depart early Sunday morning on flights at the end of the 48-hour window.
As a refresher course, Prowitt is a 6'10" center who has already taken three unofficial visits. He first came to Stanford October of 2002 to observe the opening weekend of that season's practices, then he returned for a very serious weekend visit in March. It was a week later that Prowitt learned he was admitted to Stanford and made his commitment to the Cardinal. He came once again in June with his younger brother to camp at Stanford, though he was unable to do much with a previously sprained ankle. It's remarkable that a prominent recruit like Prowitt could have taken three treks from 3,000 miles away and not yet used up his official visit, but such is the case.
"I'm partially going because I committed so early and never got to take an official visit anywhere," the Virginia big man describes. "I've heard from people how much fun they are, and I'm really looking forward to it. This is also Freshman Orientation weekend, and I know some people from my high school who are arriving to start their freshman year. That'll be cool. Then the other side of it is that I know Stanford is bringing in other recruits and I can hopefully help them see the light."
So does that mean that Prowitt will be delivering the hard sell to Finger and Frederick? "Both my parents on Washington lobbyists," he answers. "You can deduce from that how I'll be."
Taj Finger is a 6'8" power forward from New York who was recently out West for the Adidas Big Time and then the Best of Summer tournaments in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, respectively. But this will be his first trip to The Farm and will also be his first official visit to any college campus. Though it will not be his last, as he is scheduled to hit Richmond the following Tuesday and Wednesday. A day later he will fly to Chicago for a third official visit, this one to Northwestern.
"I'd say they are my top three right now," he declares. "It's so close between them that I can't say who is on top. There are positives for each place, but also some negatives. I don't think I will be able to decide until after my trips."
Finger also received in-home visits from these three schools and their head coaches this past week, and has the following to report:
Stanford - "It was the first time me or my family had met with Coach Montgomery in person. He told us about the place and what my situation would be there. He seemed like a pretty nice guy. On the subject of playing time, he said that they are losing some big guys, and I could have some good minutes as a freshman. As far as position, he says that I could be a power forward or skilled small forward - a skilled big guy."
Richmond - "They are a little more emphatic about how much they need me right away. They say I could have a lot of minutes as a freshman and be a really big part of their team. I'm more of a necessity for them."
Northwestern - "We really liked Coach Carmody, who used to be at Princeton. My parents were super impressed with him and think he would be a perfect fit for me."
Finger says that he is leaning against taking any other official visits at this time, but he is keeping Georgia and Villanova on the backburner if he doesn't get all he wants from the next two weeks of trips.
Zam Frederick is a 6'2" combo guard from South Carolina who, unlike the other two recruits, has taken several official visits already. He took his first back in January to Clemson for the opening of their new arena in the highly publicized game against Duke, then he took another trip to Tennessee State in the spring. Those two schools plus South Carolina have offered and sent head coaches into his home last week for their recruiting pitches, but Frederick has his sights set elsewhere. His top three schools are Stanford, Georgia Tech and Kentucky, and he took an official visit to Atlanta last week for the first of his three big September trips.
"They showed me a really good time," he describes of the Tech trip. "I had already been there twice and knew my way around, but they really took care of me and made sure I had a good time. It was a lot of fun."
Stanford fans have feared that the Yellow Jackets might have sealed the deal on this exciting scorer with all the recent visits to Atlanta, but Frederick cautions that his excited reaction to the latest trip is not the final step before a commitment.
"My decision is still wide open," he declares. "That visit didn't change my mind. Just because they show you a good time doesn't mean that's the place you should commit to. I know that any place I visit is going to do that for me, and I can't jump at the first one."
Mike Montgomery was one of several head coaches to enter the Frederick household last week for in-home visits, and the Stanford head man reiterated the same message he has previously delivered to the prized guard. "He says they really need a combo guard and not many people can get into Stanford who can play ball like me," the recruit recalls."
But Stanford was not the only impactful visit received in their South Carolina home last week. Kentucky's Tubby Smith paid the Fredericks a visit Thursday and brought big news. "He said they are losing a lot of guards and need someone to come in and play right away," the top target tells us. "They said they have identified six guys they like and need to bring in two guards and one big man. He offered me while he was there; he said it's all on me if I want to go to Kentucky."
A week after Frederick returns from Stanford, he will take his fifth and final official visit to Lexington. But for now, his focus is on The Farm.
"I've never been to California before, so I need to see how I like the place and the people," he describes. "I really want to check out the social life and the campus, and see if I gel with the players. I'm going to be with those guys for four years, so they're a big part of where I'll be. My goal is still to make it to the League, so I'm trying to find a place where I can play right away. I'm looking for an opportunity with a lot of opportunities and exposure. And I want a great education, which Stanford does for me. I don't want to go through school and not get the most out of it."
As Prowitt noted above, the timing of this official visit weekend is an interesting one, with pluses and minuses for the Stanford coaches. On the negative side of the ledger, there is no home football game, which typically is a focal campus event that basketball programs love to show to their recruits. This weekend will also come without many of Stanford's upperclassmen on campus, given that most check into dorms the day these recruits leave. But the great positive that awaits these visitors is the coincidence with Freshman Orientation, which is admittedly as electric a time as any Stanford student's time on The Farm. The energy and activities will be crazed that Friday and Saturday at Stanford.
One other note is that neither Finger nor Frederick had completed and submitted their Stanford admissions applications when I spoke with them this weekend. Montgomery impressed upon both the need to have those applications finished and in the mail before they come on these trips, and both recruits indicate they are close. Finger says that he is currently cleaning up his essays and is almost finished. Frederick says that he only has to write his essays to complete the application. Both are very academically minded young man with strong academic records at their schools.
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