The end is near. Clent Stewart is taking his final official visit this weekend, and a decision will come soon thereafter. While we reported recently on the effusive outflow of love he felt during his Stanford visit, there is an internal battle the 6'3" Oklahoman is waging for his college choice. The Stanford visit was a best fit for him on all levels, but there is a strong pull to stay near home and family.
"I really like Stanford," Stewart emotes. "I had the best time hanging out with those guys, especially Josh Childress. The school really fits who I am, which is a big key. But it's a hard thing to go out there. I'm really close to my family - my parents and my sister. She's at Oklahoma right now. I think about it every day. If I go out there, I might be home twice a year - Christmas and summer vacation. And that depends on summer school."
This struggle between the head and heart, between what the Union High School senior knows is the best school for him and what can keep him close to his family, is not unfamiliar to Stanford recruiting. Just a year ago 6'10" Drew Naymick (another Midwesterner) had a fantastic visit to Stanford, which he admitted to friends and family was the place where he should go. But he ultimately pronounced that he "owed it" to his family to stay close to home, and committed to Michigan State.
There is a wrinkle in this decision which makes this a more personal and conflicted decision for Clent Stewart, however. His mother has cancer and is currently ramping up her chemotherapy treatments. Stewart says that she is not well enough at this time to make a trip of her own to see Stanford, and that may ultimately doom the Stanford-Stewart marriage.
"I so wish she could have gone to visit Stanford," the recruit admits. "All moms have a hard to letting their babies go, and that's why she has been trying to go on all these visits with me. She went to Kansas State and Vanderbilt. She wants to see what my second family away from home would be like, that she would be turning me over to. My parents understand the prestige of the academics at Stanford. They understand how Stanford can help me later in life. The only negative is how far from home I would be."
The final event before his college commitment will be an official trip to Tulsa this weekend. Just a few weeks ago there was some doubt that an official trip would be necessary; after all, he has seen the campus countless times unofficially. Stewart knows the coaches and players almost as well as his own high school team.
The "trip" that Stewart will take is all of 15 miles from his home, which is equivalent to a Stanford student jumping down the 101 to see a movie at the AMC Mercado. To be honest, this official visit should shed little light on the decision at hand. Stewart should not receive any significant positive or negative surprises. He knows the place and people too well, already.
"I really like Tulsa," the local recruit opines. "[Head coach] John Phillips is a great guy, and he's recruited me the longest of any of these programs. But I haven't made up my mind yet. That's why I'm taking the visit. I'm keeping my mind open. I have no intentions of committing on the visit. I'll come back and talk with my parents about what is best for me."
Stewart outlines the following as he defines what will be best for him in a college selection:
- Academics - "My mom has always stressed that for me."
- Playing time - "Nobody wants to come in and sit on the bench."
- Comfort - "Not just me, but how comfortable are my mom and dad with my choice."
And though there are officially four schools in contention... while there are several sets of factors officially at work, there is just one thing weighing ultimately on this family's mind as they choose between Stanford and Tulsa.
"It's all about distance," Stewart reveals. "That's what we are going to talk about when I get back. That is without a doubt the biggest deciding factor."
To that end, the recruit received his weekly phone call from Stanford (this is not an NCAA period that allows in-home visits) Monday night. Assistant coach Tony Fuller called Stewart from the floor of Maples Pavilion while watching and conducting Stanford's team practice.
"He wanted to tell me how all the guys were doing, and we talked about what is coming up for me," the hotly contested Tulsa talent relays. "He told me about how he went to school to Pepperdine, which was a distance for him. He says that was a new chapter in his family's life, and this chance could open a new chapter for my family. I have some relatives in California, and the chance for my parents to come see me while I'm out there could be something new for us."
If I had to handicap this race right now, it would be Tulsa out ahead of Stanford before this official visit weekend ever starts. I doubt that anything will take away from the Golden Hurricanes' position of strength, which is their proximity to the Stewart household. The only thing that breaks this back in Stanford's favor is some very personal and emotional discussion within that home next week. There needs to be a breakthrough where the parents, Vanessa Stewart in particular, is willing to release Clent for his opportunity out West. I just don't see that happening. Not when Mrs. Stewart is unlikely to see Stanford with her own eyes before the rapidly approaching November early signing period.
There is one radical path this recruitment could take that could alleviate the temporal strain. Perhaps the recruit waits this out through the spring signing period. He would gather little information about his two favorite schools, but his mother's medical situation may be much better understood between now and then. She might also have a chance to see the one school her son is struggling to turn down, the one place she has yet to scrutinize. Undoubtedly both schools will hold a spot another five months past the coming signing period. Tulsa would be crazy to crowd out the top local talent within their grasp in recent years. Stanford has only filled two scholarships and could easily hold two until the spring.
It's an unlikely scenario, however. Stewart says that he wants to take the recruiting pressure of his shoulders and focus on his senior season at Union. Whatever the decision, I wish the very best of luck to this fantastic and mature young man. College itself is held as a time of unparalleled growth in a young adult's life, but no event during those collegiate years may bear as much impact on the remainder of Clent Stewart's life as the one in front of him. That's a weighty burden, and he has a tough couple weeks ahead to sort out a very difficult and personal decision.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!