Four games into the 2004-05 season, the secret is out (if it was ever a secret to begin with). Stanford is not a particularly threatening three-point shooting team this year, which flies in the face of the formula that has worked marvelously for Cardinal Basketball for their decade-long run of 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournaments. Stanford has enjoyed great success matching up their talented post players with prolific sharpshooting wings, but some recent recruiting classes have traded long-range marksmanship for other skills and athletic abilities. We may see this winter, for the first time in years, a steady diet of zone defenses employed against the Cardinal unless and until somebody steps up outside the arc.
When Chris Hernandez and Dan Grunfeld are subtracted from the program in the spring of 2006, when they will graduate, the ability to shoot from the perimeter may plummet to new lows. The reinforcements that arrive that fall are yet unknown to Cardinalmaniacs™, with the recruiting class of '06 still in its nascent stages. We know of an embarrassing wealth of big men in that class who appear to have elite talent and size, to go along with admirable grades and interest in The Farm. But where are the guards, the wings? Who will handle and shoot the ball on the perimeter to keep defenses from packing it in and neutralizing those twin (or triple) tower inside threats?
There will surely be other guards in this 2006 class who come to light in the coming months, but the man taking an early leading role as Stanford's much-needed shooter/ballhandler of the future is a 6'3" combo guard from Marion, Iowa named Jason Bohannon. The sharp shooting Iowan played primarily at shooting guard for his Linn-Mar High School team last winter as a sophomore, in addition to the backup point guard role. He averaged 17 points, six rebounds and three and a half assists per game. Bohannon was the primary scoring threat for the Lions, leading them to a 24-3 record that included 17 straight wins to close out the season, culminating in the 4A state championship. He scored 24 points in the 56-51 title game victory, drawing rave reviews all over the Midwest for his performance and poise. Bohannon shot an outstanding 52% from the field for the year, with much of his offense coming on the perimeter, including a 46% three-point percentage. His offense, his rebounding and his basketball IQ earned him First Team All-State honors; he was the only underclassman selected to the eight-man team.
Bohannon has made his mark with his scoring talents, but he spent much of his sophomore year more focused on his ball handling. His handle is tight enough today that he is shifting over to the point guard position for his junior year at Linn-Marr. He admits that his defense was his greatest weakness last year, but he has made the commitment to bring those skills up to the level of his offensive talents. Bohannon has also made strides in recent months with his quickness and agility, despite a surgery that should have set him back instead.
"I had my knee scoped back in May," the Iowan explains. "There was torn cartilage in my right knee. I could have played through it, but it would have become a nagging injury after a while. I was out a few weeks, but I feel better than ever now."
That surgery certainly did not deter Big 10 suitors from stepping up their recruitment of Bohannon. Both Iowa and Wisconsin made offers to the combo guard, and Stanford has expressed their highest interest.
"I have to apply and get accepted at Stanford before they can offer me," Bohannon comments on the Cardinal. "But they talk to me with as much interest as anybody in the country."
The recruit has responded with reciprocal attention and scheduled an official visit to The Farm on January 29, when he will be able to tour the campus, meet the players and coaches, and watch Stanford take on Oregon at the renovated Maples Pavilion. The significance of this visit cannot be overstated. While it is true that the Cardinal coaching staff are pushing their recruiting efforts earlier and with greater intensity in this 2006 class than in any other recruiting year we have seen, the January visit date will be the earliest that any Cardinal recruit has taken officially to Stanford.
Bohannon says that he would like to make his college commitment at the end of his junior year or early in his senior year, but the current momentum of his recruitment extrapolates to an earlier denouement. The combo guard recruit received his Stanford admissions application two months ago and is more than half finished, with some essays still to complete. He says that his goal is to mail in the finished application "before January."
Five years ago, this kind of early admissions activity would seem nonsensical, but a couple years ago, the Admissions Office agreed to start reviewing applications for a handful of basketball recruits after they conclude their fifth semester of high school coursework. That could conceivably enable a recruit like Bohannon to get an admissions decision as early as January, rather than waiting until the summer as in the past. Bohannon currently carries a 3.8 GPA with a respectable course load, and he has already taken the ACT - scoring a 25 in late October.
"I'm pretty happy with that," he comments on his test score. "Practice tests I took predicted I would score between a 25 and a 28. I don't know if I will retake it or not. The Stanford coaches seemed very pleased with my score."
Don't think for a moment, though, that the Cardinal will just waltz into Marion and snare this prized prospect without one heck of a fight. Bohannon is not only the brightest hoops star in the state, which naturally makes him a focal recruit for Steve Alford, but the junior standout also has Hawkeye blood in his veins. His father, Gordy Bohannon, was a quarterback for Iowa in the early 1980s and is still revered for leading the Hawkeyes to the 1982 Rose Bowl. The younger Bohannon is also a signal caller on the gridiron and led the Lions to a 5-4 record this fall - the first winning season for Linn-Mar in eight years.
The question, of course, is how strong is the pull Bohannon feels from two parents who are Iowa alumni, plus all the pressure from friends and neighbors to go to Iowa City.
"Do I feel a lot of pressure to go to Iowa? Yes and no," the recruit offers. "I'm really wide open right now. A lot of schools are showing interest. There is no clear favorite right now. Those three schools [Iowa, Wisconsin and Stanford] are above and beyond the others, though, because of the level of their recruitment."
Bohannon has had serious interest from schools all over the nation. In addition to the aforementioned trio of leaders, he has been recruited by Arizona, Illinois, Purdue, Kansas, Virginia, Penn State, Florida State, North Carolina State and "a little bit from North Carolina." The Wildcats are the lone school to join Stanford so far from the Pac-10 in pursuing Bohannon, but it looks like that relationship is being cut back already.
"Arizona was talking to me for a while, but I don't feel like I would want to go there," the Marion man notes. "I want a place that has good academics and good basketball - I want to get the best of both worlds."
Bohannon adds that he feels Illinois and NC State are the two schools starting to step up their recruiting efforts the most right now. Indeed, it looks like the Big 10 and ACC will be big players for this combo guard, and we expect more recruiting news to develop in the next couple months as schools watch Bohannon during his junior year at Linn-Mar. Stay tuned as we keep you updated all winter and spring on all the latest, on the court, in the recruiting wars and in the admissions arena.
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