Wilkes Speaks on Bay Area Visits

If you have been sleeping on Stanford basketball recruiting just because the official visit season has closed down for the summer, then you might snooze through some of the biggest events in the 2005 class. One of them transpired last week when SoCal center standout Jordan Wilkes took an unofficial visit to The Farm. For a report on what he did and how he came away feeling about Trent Johnson, read on...

It has been an underpublicized event, but last Monday marked the beginning of a new calling period where college coaches can place a phone call to rising senior recruits in the 2005 class. On that day, Stanford had the big news and fortunate timing to place a call to 6'11" Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola center Jordan Wilkes, who was slated to visit unofficially at The Farm the next day. Wilkes had been originally scheduled to make an official visit to Stanford in May, but it was postponed indefinitely when his family received news on the admissions status of his brother, Omar. The younger Wilkes, along with the entire family, was hit with the reality of Stanford's challenging admissions application process and felt a need to finish the application.

Last Monday, Jordan Wilkes was told by Stanford that his recently submitted application had been accepted, which paved the way for an unconditional offer opportunity to study and play basketball on The Farm.

"Like any regular student, I was really excited," he beams in reflection upon the news he received that day.

With little time for celebration, Wilkes and his parents headed up to Stanford the very next day for their unofficial visit last Tuesday. On Wednesday, Wilkes and his father travelled across the Bay to unofficially visit California. His mother went back home and did not join them on that second visit.

"I knew about the Bay Area but did not know the campus atmospheres at either place," the #4 ranked center on the West Coast explains. "The campus atmospheres were great. I could see myself at both places."

Wilkes speaks favorably about both visits, and his description of the events at each school are strikingly similar.

"We took a campus tour and then got a look at Maples. We saw how it's being done, and we also saw future plans," the Loyola standout says of his Stanford visit. "This was my first time to meet and talk with Coach [Trent] Johnson - that was key. We had lunch and met some of the players, though not all of them are on campus right now. Met with academic advisors and watched some highlight tapes."

"At Cal, we met with the coaches, took a campus tour," the recruit comments on Wednesday's itinerary. "Went into Haas and saw the locker rooms - I have never seen them before. He saw some highlight tapes and met with a couple players - again, they were not all there."

For both the recruit and for the reporting of the recruitment, you like to see contrasts between visits that help illuminate the dimensions for a decision. But as far as Wilkes is concerned, at least on his outward face to the media, the trips were too close to call.

"It's hard to say what were the differences. It's still too fresh," he maintains. "I haven't thought about it too much, yet. I haven't deciphered what these visits mean for me."

These two unofficial visits come after a single spring official visit to Washington. While speculative focus lately for Wilkes has been centered around the Bay Area institutions, he claims that the Huskies are not to be overlooked.

"Washington is still in it," the SoCal center declares. "I pretty much feel all three are even right now."

That is the outward face Wilkes wants to project, but too much information suggests that this is primarily a Bay Area battle. Prior to the change of plans for his older brother Omar, the family plan was to put both kids at Stanford. The transfer application did not workout for Omar to become a Cardinal, however, and that opened the door for Cal to swoop in. With his older brother set for the next three or four years in Berkeley, the Bears suddenly have a prohibitive advantage. The pink elephant standing in the middle of the room remains one question: Should Jordan Wilkes follow his brother to Cal, or should he instead stick with Stanford?

"He wants me to do what is best for me," the younger (but not little) brother says of Omar's input. "It does make it interesting, though."

The bottom line is that you are not going to get this rising senior center recruit to comment on the record about his leanings and inclinations. Just like his older brother, Wilkes is a savvy and political young man who knows how to avoid offending anybody. Only the most earnest praise will come from his lips for all his suitors... and then a decisive decision will pop. About the only thing Wilkes was willing to say on the heels of these visits was that he discerns a difference in the coaching personalities.

"Coach [Ben] Braun is a little more laid back," he allows. "Coach Johnson is a little more serious. He knows what he wants to do."

If the underdog Cardinal have any chance in this race, it lies in the hands of Trent Johnson. He is a wild card given his lack of previous interactions with the Loyola student-athlete. How then did Wilkes come away feeling about Johnson?

"Coach Johnson expressed his interest in me. He told me what he likes to do - what his philosophies are. He says I am a big guy who is a versatile player, and that fits the Stanford mold to a "T". He says I'm a great fit," the recruit relates. "He is a very smart coach. My mom hadn't met Coach Johnson before, and she came away very impressed. My dad was more familiar with Coach Johnson and thinks very highly of him."

Despite all this praise, the Omar factor still looms too large here. Sources in Southern California and Northern California say that despite the parents affection for Stanford, they are keeping mostly quiet in this decision. In that vacuum, there is too much attraction for the brothers to play together. Omar is the trump card in this game, and that has most people's money betting on Cal.

If you are a Stanford fan looking for optimism, you can ask some questions:

  • Why finish filling out the Stanford application? It is a significant amount of work, and we saw two years ago that Omar opted against it despite a longer recruiting relationship with the Cardinal.
  • Why take the visit to The Farm at all? The Wilkes could have taken the non-offensive posture that the Stanford coaching transition left too many questions, and that would politely have allowed them to decline any visit invitation. Moreover, why does the mother come up for only the Stanford visit?
  • Why no word by now? The visits happened the early part of last week, and a clear-cut case like this would lead to an expected quick trigger for the Bears.

As for the timeframe, Wilkes does admit that he is looking for a quick decision. Throughout the spring, it was said that he would take visits in the fall and not allow himself to rush a decision. But now that the recruiting attention and pressure has ratched up several notches, he is looking far sooner to announce an end to his recruitment.

"Ideally, in my mind, I would like to make a decision before I head out to the camps and travel events in July," the center recruit reveals. "That is ideally would I would like to do. If the reality is that I can't come to a decision by then, I guess I will have to take my time to make the right decision."

The shoe camps get rolling next week, so if he can comfortably come to a decision before then, that means we are likely to hear a commitment from Jordan Wilkes sometime this week or coming weekend. We'll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest, but there is unlikely to be any public telling comments from the recruit about where he will go until the commitment is made.

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