It doesn't seem that long ago that Stanford's pool of serious recruits numbered in the teens. There were so many options for big men, wings and the guard spots that Cardinalmaniacs™ were dizzy with the possibilities. Fans would get into heated arguments about which player to take with the four precious scholarships available.
Those numbers have tremendously thinned in the last two months, however, with recruits dropping off the map like so many independent candidates in the California gubernatorial recall race. Some were sliced away by Stanford due to evaluations. Some have not pulled the academic numbers or been willing to retake an SAT. And several have simply rejected the Cardinal out of hand by choosing another school.
Now the latest news is that Mike Montgomery has seen his Cruz Bustamante (or Arianna Huffington, as it were) fall by the wayside. San Antonio (TX) power forward Trent Plaisted is considered a high major recruit by most astute recruiting services, and has earned that rating as well as his handful of scholarship offers on the back of his athleticism and physical tools. He has good body agility and can score in a myriad of fashions out to 18 feet. He can shoot the ball but is more impressive with his moves off the dribble.
For those reasons I rated Plaisted the top 2004 Stanford recruit I saw in Las Vegas at the Adidas Big Time. It was also great news for Stanford fans that he had just turned in his admissions application and was privately telling people that the Cardinal was his #1 choice.
Fast forward to the end of September, when this preeminent recruit took his long-awaited official visit to Stanford. Prior to that trip there were already some tea leaves that suggested a difficult culture fit. Academically, Plaisted had bemoaned the fact that he would in all manners of his life be an equal to other students at Stanford, rather than receiving special treatments and compensations as an athlete. In sharp contrast he traveled to Florida State the week before Stanford and was shown a polar opposite world, where athletes are gods and pampered in almost every way.
On the basketball end of things, Plaisted was very concerned that a Stanford assistant coach had at one point uttered the word "center" in describing Plaisted's future. The recruit has a very firm idea of what kind of basketball player he is and should be, and that does not entail camping out in the low post as he conceives of a center's duties. It is an interesting side note that in Stanford's offense, the 4 and 5 positions are almost completely interchangeable. It is what you can and cannot do on defense that often dictates whether you are a forward or center.
Plaisted told The Bootleg last night that his visit to Stanford was good, but not good enough. And he returned to some of these same themes in his explanation.
"I really enjoyed playing and hanging out with the guys, but they aren't what I'm looking for in basketball," he begins. "I see myself a face-up scoring guy, but Stanford's players are all big and work out a lot. It seems like they are big on strength and like to bang a lot. That's a fine style, but just not what I'm looking for."
It isn't right or wrong for a player to have a particular vision of himself as a player, and both fans and coaches could have endless rants about Stanford's use of the high post for its burgeoning lineage of big man talents. Tim Young stroked shots out to 15 feet, and both of the Collins twins were deadly from both midrange and beyond the three-point line. Curtis Borchardt's skills in the high post were an important reason for his 1st round NBA draft selection after just one healthy year of play in college, and today we have both Matt Haryasz and Justin Davis shooting effectively facing the basket. Heck, Rob Little is developing a nice face-up shot as well.
But it is true that low post play, both from a skilled and physical perspective, is paramount to any Mike Montgomery basketball team. Plaisted has decided to pass on Stanford and will make his final decision between Florida State and BYU. It honestly sounds like the best thing for both the recruit and Stanford, as the basketball fit was not going to work out.
The good news for Stanford's big man recruiting is that they have scored a center and a skilled forward in this class with Peter Prowitt and Taj Finger. The pair have the Cardinal coaches very excited, and it now appears that Davis Nwankwo is possibly the last big body available in America. The Nwankwo saga will not be rehashed here, but if it does not work out that the Maryland forward (tabbed "the next Justin Davis") can gain admission and then commit to Stanford, then you could very well expect the staff to stand pat in this class. The hunt for a ballhandler is an independent one, and that hinges on the recruitment of Clent Stewart and Manny Quezada, but the point to be made is that absent Plaisted the big man recruiting is now just about concluded.
There could be a player there for Stanford in the spring, and the evaluations would continue during the high school winter season. But Nwankwo and Plaisted were/are probably the last two non-guards on the board, which means that Mike Montgomery might hold a scholarship over to the 2005 class if Nwankwo does not happen.
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