This is still the land of opportunity, isn't it? The case of Crenshaw High School junior Aleksey Lanis argues that the success stories of émigrés who come to this country are not locked in the 1920s. He was born and raised in Siberia before he and his family picked up and moved in 1994 to the United States. He has lived in Los Angeles all 10 years since.
"We knew there were better opportunities here," he says of the immigration.
The 6'6" 300-pound left tackle is an athletically gifted young man who has found success in the new sport of football, with his first year of play coming in just his sophomore season. Lanis grew up with the sport of basketball, which has helped him develop fantastic feet and mobility. In his junior year this past fall, the Russian road-grader earned First Team All-City honors, First Team All-State Underclass recognition in California and Junior All-American hardware. He is a bigtime talent on the football field headed for college greatness, and that alone could justify the move to the States for "better opportunities." But Lanis is a great story because of what he has done for himself off the field.
Though practices, lifting and conditioning can take its toll throughout the year, this Los Angeles high school junior works long hours after school. Many days he does not get home until midnight. The demands of football and work should be enough drown a young man like Lanis, but he still manages to carry a Herculean load at school of honors and AP courses with a 3.8 weighted GPA. He has also scored a 1210 on the SAT, but don't pat him on the back for that accomplishment.
"I'm really mad at that score," a disgusted Lanis admits. "I'm aiming for a 1400."
A national audience of college coaches are hot on the trail of this elite student-athlete, though hehas been sitting on his sole scholarship offer for two months now, with just the hometown UCLA Bruins throwing their hat in the ring for the gifted offensive tackle. Another suitor has been coming on strong, though, sending him quite a bit of mail. Yesterday was a rare day off from work for Lanis, and he used that afternoon to reach them on the phone and was hit with his second offer. He immediately called The Bootleg to break the news.
"Stanford has really been sending me a lot of letters lately - three or four a day," the Crenshaw High School junior begins. "I've tried calling them several times lately but kept missing them. Today I finally got them and spoke with Coach Teevens. He was in a hurry - just coming out of one meeting and about to go into another - so we didn't talk long. But he told me that I have an offer from them."
"I was excited and surprised," Lanis continues. "I waited a while for that first offer, and then it was a long time before this one. I'm really happy to have more than just the one offer."
The elite LA junior has previously been cautious about naming leaders. "Anybody who is interested in me - I'm interested in them," he had proclaimed. But in the excitement of this offer, he tipped his hand a little bit.
"My interest is really high in Stanford right now. They're definitely in my top three," he declares. "UCLA is another team in my top three."
Lanis is heading down to Westwood this weekend for UCLA's Junior Day. It is his second unofficial to the campus. He says that he will now make sure to give an unofficial visit to Stanford in "late May/early June."
The Crenshaw tackle talent has planned on using unofficial visits to see the more accessible schools for him in California, while employing official visits to see more remote destinations. At this time he predicts that he will take four of his officials to Florida, Oregon, Michigan and Notre Dame. Arizona and BYU are another two schools who are now writing him.
"I'm thinking I can hit Stanford and Cal - maybe Oregon and Washington - with a trip up North this summer," Lanis contemplates. "But I'll have to see how that works out. Gas is kind of expensive right now."
But don't expect a tightened list of schools to be coming out of his mouth anytime soon. He was quoted once a couple months ago saying that he was leaning toward staying close to home at USC or UCLA, but he now distances himself from such proclamations.
"I've been high on USC and UCLA just because they're local and I've had a chance to see them," Lanis maintains. "I'm all over the place right now. I haven't decided where I'm going at all. I have to take visits to see places and find out much more."
Nevertheless, if Lanis is looking to stay regional, the Cardinal will have some advantage over other suitors. The 300-pound athlete also has other reasons for his excitement toward Stanford.
"Education is pretty much my number one priority," he explains. "I need to be able to find a great job after college, and you need a great degree to do that. Stanford recruits student-ahletes who want to find the perfect balance of school and football, and that's what I'm looking for."
This all sounds great, but there is a catch that will make Cardinalmaniacs™ cringe. Lanis is keyed on enrolling early for college so that he can take part in spring football in 2005 before his first fall. Stanford of course has a rigid policy against allowing any freshman to start in the winter or spring.
"I'm going to take some courses this summer so that I can graduate after my first semester my senior year," the junior pronounces. "I want to decide early so I'm set to enroll the next semester in college. I want to start early, and I think getting into the weight room that spring would get me to where I can start earlier."
Buddy Teevens has a challenge ahead of him in this recruitment, despite all of Lanis' current exuberance, if the prospective student-athlete is hell-bent on enrolling early in the spring. There are no tricks or loopholes that could sneak the Russian-American into classes before the fall of 2005. All Teevens can do is try to convince Lanis that freshmen can play at Stanford. This as big an issue as any to follow with this particular recruitment, and we will bring you all the very latest as this shapes up in the coming months.
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