While January marks the start of when high school junior basketball recruits can take their official visits (provided that they have posted an SAT/ACT score), it has been the unofficial visit road for Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez so far this winter. The 6'11" twin talents from Fresno (Calif.) play at San Joaquin Memorial High School, where league games come every Wednesday and Friday throughout the winter.
"I understand that official visits go from Friday through Sunday, but the boys play on Friday nights," explains their mother, Deborah Ledford. "And we don't want to start a visit on Saturday that would go through Monday. I won't let the boys miss school. We've told all the [college] coaches that we would like to hold off on the official visits until after the season."
Circumstances have allowed the Twins to trip twice to nearby Pac-10 schools thus far this winter, however. SJM played a pair of games in two different events on Saturday January 15 in Los Angeles, so they stayed in town that night to take an unofficial trip to UCLA that Sunday.
"It was very good. The visit went very well," Ledford reports. "Ben Howland is building an excellent program, and it's clear that they are improving. They do provide good academic support, which is important to the boys. They brought in some great freshmen, as everybody knows."
The Twins and their mother walked away favorably impressed by Westwood, and Ledford says that UCLA has moved up in the family's mind. Much to the consternation of Bruin backers, it was their cross-town rivals at USC who had held an advantage for a long time with the Lopez Twins.
"Truthfully, Henry Bibby recruited the boys harder than anyone else - harder even than Stanford," the mother reveals. "I thought it was unfair that [USC] fired him, but oh well. USC's stock fell when that happened, but we hear the new coach will be good. We don't know him, though."
"Certainly UCLA has jumped up ahead," she continues. "It is easiest for us to stay in touch with the schools out West because of the [NCAA] rules, but you can list other schools who have been after the boys. Wake Forest, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Illinois and UConn. Lute Olson, Coach K and Roy Williams all watched them this summer. Arkansas has come out to see them this season, but otherwise, the East Coast schools haven't been out since the summer."
Their home in Fresno is inundated with mail, but not all of it gets opened. Ledford opens and responds to anything personally addressed to her, which has been the smart tactic taken by Oregon, Wake Forest, Arkansas, UCLA, Stanford and UNLV. Much of the mail sent to the Twins is discarded if it is obviously "mass-produced" non-personalized mailings, such as photocopied articles and newspaper clips.
"They don't open those," Ledford says.
This past Saturday, the 6'11" juniors and their mother drove to Stanford for a one-day unofficial visit, which included the electric game at Maples Pavilion where the Card hammered Oregon.
"We'd been up for games only - never really said more than 'hi' to the boys on the team," Ledford notes. "We wanted to have a chance to spend more time with the team, and to learn more about the academic support and the facilities. We want to see the new gym and the new floor."
You may have seen the Lopez Twins at Maples Pavilion in past seasons, but the Oregon game was their first in the renovated facility. Ledford is familiar with the campus and University going back to her days as an undergraduate (Class of '71, German Studies).
"Football was king back then, with Jim Plunkett and the Rose Bowl," she remembers. "Now basketball is so big."
The basketball on display that sunny Saturday at The Farm could not have been a better advertisement for Trent Johnson and Stanford Basketball. The home Cardinal controlled the game from the opening tip, and opened up a whopping 28-point lead before halftime. Junior big man Matt Haryasz went for a career game with 20 points and 20 boards, with the Lopez Twins grinning wide in the lower level of a rocking Maples Pavilion.
"They're just going to get better and better as the season goes on," Ledford says of Stanford. "The fact that their record is not as good as last year doesn't say very much. There are a lot of factors to consider. I think we all know that Stanford did lose Josh Childress and the big seniors. You're not always on the top all the time; you have struggles."
A couple of external opinions have additionally engendered the positive attitude of the family toward Stanford and its coaches.
"Pete Newell came to one game in San Diego and he spoke very highly of Coach Johnson as a coach and as a human being. And he loves Coach Reveno as a big man coach," Ledford shares. "Mike McDonald's parents have said that Coach Johnson was the one who called the plays when he was an assistant for Coach Montgomery, too."
"I think keeping coaches from Coach Montgomery's staff - Tony Fuller and Eric Reveno - was smart," she adds. "That gave continuity, which was important."
While evaluating the Stanford program, campus and support are fine and enjoyable, the Lopez Twins have worked even harder on their academics to make sure they can be in a position where they can have Stanford as a college option. They both took the SAT and ACT in June of their junior year. Robin scored an 1190 while Brook recorded an 1100 on the SAT; both scored a composite 24 on the ACT. They also retook the SAT in January and are awaiting those retake scores.
Brook and Robin both recorded GPAs at or just below an unweighted 4.0 their sophomore year, and their first semester grades of their junior year just in the last couple weeks posted. They delivered nearly identical report cards, according to Ledford, in their core courses: A- in AP English Composition, B in AP History, B+ in Algebra II and B+ in Chemistry.
The Lopez Twins completed their Stanford admissions applications in the fall and have been waiting for these first semester grades to post. Says Ledford cryptically of the update from Old Union upon receiving those fifth semester transcripts, "We have received some comfort and encouragement from Admissions."
When pressed further, she would only allow: "We need to keep up their grades and work hard in the classroom, but we feel good about the boys' opportunity to have Stanford as a choice when they make their decision."
Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez are both ranked among the best in the nation in the 2006 class, and they have drawn favorable comparisons to Jason Collins and Jarron Collins at the same stage in their development. Brook is currently ranked #16 in the nation by Scout.com as a five-star prospect, while brother Robin is #42 and four stars. We will continue to keep you updated with all the latest on these elite and program-changing twin tower recruits. Simply stated, they are the biggest story in Stanford Basketball recruiting since the Collins Twins, and their impact could be just as great.
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