The last point guard recruited to Stanford signed 23 months ago, when fifth-year prep Jason Haas rounded out the 2002 recruiting class. Last year Mike Montgomery went after the likes of Chris Paul, Ryan Appleby and Derek Raivio but came up empty when the fall and spring signing periods came to pass. The best point guard fix he could find came in the form of three-sport star Jai Miller, who signed a football Letter of Intent with Stanford in February. However even Miller was swiped from Stanford's reach when he signed a professional baseball contract in June with the Florida Marlins.
Fast forward to today, where all manner of focus in this 2004 recruiting class has been heaped on the big men. From Prowitt to Kurz to Nwankwo to Rothbart to Finger to Plaisted - it's been a dizzying merry-go-round of big bodies that have been in the cross-hairs for the Cardinal coaching staff.
But a dire need in this class has also been at the point guard or combo guard position. Inexplicably, none have come to Stanford for official visits yet this year, though. Thus the arrival today of Tulsa (OK) product Clent Stewart to campus is a widely celebrated event. Some other guards may have baggage, academic or otherwise, but here is a kid with a 25 ACT and a 4.3 GPA. His high school coach calls him the "perfect model" as both an athlete and student. Stewart is a fantastic distributor, very solid scorer from both mid-range and also driving to the basket. He is also recognized as a great leader both on the floor and in the lockerroom.
This is a kid you want on your team. This is a kid Stanford needs in its program.
"My job is to get the team ready," Stewart says. "Coach actually puts quite a bit of pressure on me. I can distribute and score, and when it comes down to crunch time, Coach wants the ball in my hands."
The 6'3" guard from Tulsa Union High School averaged 14 points, five assists and four rebounds per game his junior year, though he was leading the team in scoring before he broke his ankle in January and had to sit out 4-5 weeks.
"I think my leadership is probably my greatest asset as a basketball player," he introspectively pontificates. "As for skills, I like to make sure I'm distributing the ball. If that goes well, everything else works out."
Strong character and leadership are admirable qualities for sure, and should be applauded. But the truth is that Cardinal fans have become accustomed to these traits in each of Stanford's players. What fans want to hear about is offense and tempo.
"I like to get out and run," Stewart answers. "A lot of what I do comes from pushing the ball up the floor. I do a lot of penetrating and then kick the ball out. My best shot in the offense is the mid-range jumper, though I will also drive the ball to the hole. I'm also a good three-point shooter."
He is also accustomed to winning, leading Union to a 25-4 finish this past year and the Oklahoma state quarterfinals. In the off-season he plays with the vaunted Athletes First squad on the AAU circuit, which has been home to the top Oklahoma talents for years. Stanford fans might remember Kelenna Azubuike, Kevin Bookout and Shelden Williams from the 2002 recruiting class.
This past summer took Stewart and Athletes First to the Memorial Day Classic in Indianapolis, the Peach Jam in North August (SC) and the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando. Individually he attended the Nike All-America Camp as well as the NBPA Camp, which was also attended by Stanford commit Peter Prowitt.
At the Nike Peach Jam, Stewart had perhaps his finest showing. In the South Carolina event, he faced off against Riverside Church and A.J. Price, who TheInsidersHoops has ranked the #4 point guard in the country. Stewart not only held his own defensively against the athletic Price, he also managed to score in chunks with bigtime shooting from the perimeter.
His performances on the summer circuit as well as at Union HS earned him scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Tulsa, South Carolina, Kansas State and Vanderbilt. The Sooners signed four guard this past year, though, which led Stewart to know them off his list. His current and final five are the other schools plus Stanford. His offer from Mike Montgomery could (and probably will) come after he is accepted by the Admissions Office. Stewart sent in his application to Stanford late last week and says he anticipates an answer during this weekend's visit.
This is not his first official visit, however. He took a trip to Manhattan to check out Kansas State two weeks ago, which "went really well." He will head to Vanderbilt in two weeks (10/17) and then South Carolina the week after that (10/24). A fifth official might logically go to Tulsa, but the local product already has extensive unofficial visits to the campus.
"Coach Montgomery is really down to business," Stewart says of his impressions of the Stanford coach from a recent in-home visit. "He says they really like my style of play and that I will fit in well at Stanford. They have great big guys and like how I can push the ball as well as distribute."
The 6'3" guard says that he plans on taking all of his scheduled trips, but he wants to make his college decision in time to sign in November in the early signing period. Distance is still an x-factor which Stewart says he and his family "are still deciding."
All five schools have made in-home visits once, and another rush came just this week to check him out at his first practice of his senior season. Three coaches came to see him Wednesday, including Stanford's Tony Fuller.
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