This is the time of year when we at The Bootleg are in full swing with our in-depth, non-stop coverage of the top rising high school senior basketball prospects in the nation for Stanford. Two years ago at this time we were all over the story of Loyola High School (Los Angeles, Calif.) guard Omar Wilkes, who would excite us throughout the summer but then crash down in a disappointing recruiting conclusion to start the fall. Who would have thought that we would be chasing his story once again, two year later?
After a year of discontent on and off the court at Kansas, Wilkes has secured his release from Bill Self and will transfer out of the Jayhawks program. With a new set of priorities in his heart and in his mind, the 6'4" shooting guard is looking at recruiting from a different perspective the second time around.
"It's different - not quite the same experience I had my junior and senior years of high school," Los Angeles native begins. "I've learned that I'm a big family guy, so the schools left on my list are close to home. The coach is also extremely important to me. If basketball doesn't work out, I need to feel that I'm going to be comfortable in the environment."
As is the case in all recruitments at this time, the head coaching situation is a topic of note for the Cardinal. Wilkes had a longstanding relationship with former Stanford head man Mike Montgomery, which is no longer an asset for the Card. How then does the Kansas freshman view that loss?
"I was really upset that night when I heard the news. I've joked that every school where I am looking to go loses their coach," he comments, referring also to the Roy Williams-Bill Self transition after he signed his National Letter of Intent for the Jaywaks. "If you want an idea who the next big coaching moves will be, just watch the schools recruiting me."
According to Wilkes, his favorite schools are:
A report earlier this month from the Wichita Eagle quoted Wilkes' mother as saying that Stanford is the 20-year old's top choice. The savvy student-athlete is reticent to name any clear-cut favorite but does say that a pair of these schools hold some advantage over the others at this time.
"I have had the most contact with the Bay Area schools, so I'm the most comfortable with them so far," he says of Stanford and Cal.
Wilkes goes on to say that he is in the process of setting official visits to The Farm and Berkeley. The Cal visit should be set the next time he speaks with Ben Braun, while the Stanford trip is awaiting news on his admissions application.
The application is a poignant point to Stanford fans when the subject of Omar Wilkes arises. He held an application in his hands for half a year the last time the Cardinal recruited him, yet he never filled it out. That news was broken to the Stanford staff at the 11th hour before his scheduled official visit in September 2003. When Cardinalmaniacs™ first heard word that Wilkes would be available as an interested recruit for Stanford again, fans immediately asked about the application. Once bitten, twice shy - fans wanted to see a submitted application before they would invest anything emotionally in the shooting guard again.
"I sent in the application on May 14," the transfer applicant proudly proclaims. "I wrote some pretty kick-ass essays. Because the application is such a big deal, I've kept in close contact with the Stanford coaches. I'm hoping to find out from Coach [Trent] Johnson or Coach [Tony] Fuller soon what the result is with that."
"I finished with a 3.25 GPA my first semester, but I really picked things up second semester," Wilkes continues. "I don't have my grades yet, but I anticipate they will be higher. I am under the assumption that if my application goes through, then Stanford will have an offer for me."
He notes that Cal's ability to recruit him only opened up after the abolition of the 5/8 rule recently. In the 2003 class they signed four players and again inked a quartet in the incoming 2004 freshman class. With a scholarship open and no longer the restriction of signing eight kids in a two-year period, Wilkes could join the Bears this fall.
"Once the new rule passed, Coach Braun expressed interest. We'll set up an official visit soon - hopefully to take place in the next couple weeks. I kinda want to get this thing over with ASAP. I don't want it to drag out," the West Coast recruit describes.
He adds that he would likely take an unofficial visit to USC rather than set up anything official. "I'm not sure about Washington," he allows.
Some SoCal observers may wonder about the possibility of Wilkes winding up at USC. After all, his father Jamaal (née Keith) Wilkes was a consensus First Team All-American at Westwood before going on to an NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. One link between the Wilkes family and USC, though, is that Trojans head coach Henry Bibby was a Bruin teammate with Keith in the 1971-72 National Championship season.
"He just wants what is best for me," Omar says of how his father would handle having his son at USC. "He would probably put on a maroon shirt. He's a loyal dad more than a loyal alum."
The elder Wilkes has been on the phones often the last couple weeks speaking with the Stanford coaches during this time of transition for the Cardinal. Not only is Omar looking seriously at Stanford as a transfer destination, but also younger brother Jordan is a highly regarded center prospect in the current high school class of focus (2005).
"My dad has talked with Coach Johnson and has a lot of respect for him," the older son relates. "He is really comfortable with him and also happy for Coach Montgomery. [Kansas] played against his team in Reno and they beat us. I have a lot of respect for Coach Johnson."
So we can see that much with this recruitment hangs upon Wilkes' transfer admissions application. We await word on that, just as the Kansas freshman waits. But looking forward, what will his view on the Cardinal become if and when he gains admission?
"Once you get in - after you go through all that - Stanford definitely becomes a high priority," the prized transfer recruit allows.
The final question surrounds the unique recruiting dynamics of Omar and Jordan Wilkes. They are both being pursued by a strikingly similar group of Pac-10 programs. The term "package" comes to mind for fans of all these schools, but it is difficult to get a firm answer from the older brother on the likelihood of that happening.
"I would love to play with him, but it is going to be his decision," Omar says of Jordan's college decision to come. "As long as my little brother is happy, I'm happy. If it is a great fit for both of us, then maybe we might be some place together."
What is the chance that place will be The Farm?
"Jordan has to get admitted, too," the older Wilkes brother reminds us. "He's done with his essays but is having them looked over right now."
Jordan Wilkes is currently away this weekend up in Seattle on his first official visit to Washington. Next weekend he will come to Stanford for his second and final visit scheduled this spring.
"For the most part, I am done with my application," the younger brother comments. "I want to send it in before I take my visit or bring it with me."
Jordan Wilkes scored an 1130 on his SAT ("I'm satisfied.") and says that the educational component of his decision will be a significant one.
"Stanford has the best combination of academics and athletics - you can't get that anywhere else," the 6'11" Loyola High School center declares. "Whatever school I go to has to have the academics. I am also looking at how I relate with everybody in the program, which will come into play on my visits."
His top list of schools consists of Stanford, Washington, Cal and UCLA.
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