They say recruiting is a marathon, and not a sprint. Try telling that to Cardinalmaniacs™, and you'll receive a reprimand. Just as they are glued to the 100m dash in Athens these days and yawning at the 26+ mile event, so too are they impatient for commitment news. After all, Stanford fans have suffered through two long and grueling months without a new addition to the 2005 recruiting class. It was mid-June when the Card landed Anthony Goods and Lawrence Hill simultaneously, but in this 2005 class where there are ostensibly five scholarships to give, the natives have been quite restless in anticipation of commit #3.
There was only one man in this class who had the ability today to answer that demand. Only one uncommitted player remained in the rising senior class who had a Stanford admissions acceptance under his belt. Mitch Johnson was accepted back in May, and he took his official visit to The Farm in the beginning of June. Stanford fans just couldn't understand why it took so long for Trent Johnson's top point guard target to make up his mind. Though UCLA was involved and Indiana stepped up with an offer, the O'Dea High School standout was primarily focused on Stanford and Washington. He took an unofficial trip to visit the facilities and coaches of the Husky campus later in June, which by fans' expectations should have primed the Seattleite for a decision. He opted to move forward on his terms, with his timeframe.
So we waited through July, as Johnson grabbed headlines for his sharp shooting at the Nike All-American Camp in New Jersey and then led his AAU team to the championship of the Nike Main Event in Las Vegas. His rankings have put him at the bottom or just outside the national top 100, but he gained a lot of positive exposure in that month of camp and tournament play. A pure winner, Johnson ran a talented Friends of Hoop team consistently and excellently. Though he lacks the quickness and athleticism that often shine brightest in these events, few walked away from his games without becoming fans.
August has marked a return to a recruiting mindset for the floor general. College coaches are currently allowed to make one phone call per week to rising senior recruits, and Johnson faced the building pressure from his suitors. Local media pressure in Seattle started to wear on his household as well. Insiders expected a commitment to either the Cardinal or Huskies by the end of the month, but Johnson pulled the trigger yesterday afternoon with a phone call to Stanford head man Trent Johnson (no relation).
"I thought more on this than any other decision I've made in my life," the O'Dea senior describes. "When you mull it over all day every day, usually one thing comes into your head again and again - something you like that you just can't ignore."
"It was a tough decision - just the home environment, the mix between academics and athletics are great at Stanford. The coaching staff is great and so are all the basketball people I met. It seems like the people there genuinely care about you and your success," Johnson continues. "Stanford is a school of excellence in so many ways; it's too much to pass up. I have a chance to be successful as a student and as an athlete."
Though this decision brings great jubilation to Cardinal fans, the Husky faithful remain in Johnson's thoughts as he praises their program and head coach. "I think UW is a great school. Coach Romar is a great coach - more than that, he is a great person," the thoughtful Washington native emotes.
"Both schools have a tremendous upside," the Card commit says of his final two schools. "I could get playing time and both, and both would be beneficial to me and my style of play. I think Stanford's offense will get even more wide open with Coach J, and I'm excited to be a part of that."
"Coach J," as the new point guard commit calls Trent Johnson, has put a very personal stamp on this recruitment. The 47-year old head coach is a Seattle native and has long been enamored with the namesake point guard recruit. The elder Johnson was seen repeatedly this summer in the stands at Friends of Hoop games, but he was apparently taken aback by the phone call he received from his target on Saturday.
"Coach J was pretty surprised. He didn't think my decision would be until next week," the recruit reveals. "He was very enthusiastic, and Coach J is not normally an emotional guy. He said he can't wait to see what we can do together at Stanford."
The commitment from Mitch Johnson is Stanford's third in this class, and it comes at a position where the Card could not afford to whiff. They last signed a point guard in the form of Jason Haas three full years ago. Haas, Chris Hernandez and Carlton Weatherby will all graduate after the 2005-2006 season, which means that Johnson will have just one year of tutelage before he will have to take sole possession of the offensive reins. The #23 point guard in this 2005 recruiting class (according to TheInsiders) gives Stanford a big pickup at a crucial position, reigniting their momentum in the recruiting wars.
The experts are mixed in their evaluations of Mitch Johnson, however. Some are keen on his quarterbacking abilities to greatly elevate teammates' play and run an offense, while others are suspect of his size (an even six feet) and athleticism. TheInsiders has Johnson stamped currently as a four-star recruit, but West Coast Analysts Greg Hicks and Tracy Pierson put him just fifth in their newest West Coast point guard rankings a week ago.
"Johnson is a pure point, with a solid handle and good vision and passing ability. He understands the game and plays unselfishly," Hicks offers. "Negatives would be a shaky outside shot and limited upside - short arms and average quickness. But longtime observers in Washington rave about his intangibles: tough, competitive and a leader. I don't see him ever being an impact player in the Pac-10, but he should be a capable role player if he's surrounded by good talent."
Time will tell what kind of impact Mitch Johnson will have on the Stanford program and the Pac-10 landscape. Trent Johnson made the point guard a top priority in this class and with him has tied his fortunes on The Farm. Cardinalmaniacs™ are celebrating this news today and are anxious to see Johnson & Johnson push Stanford to new heights in 2005 and beyond.
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