Do you remember where you were when you first heard the news in 1996 of the commitment of Jason Collins and Jarron Collins to the Cardinal? It was a watershed moment in the history of Stanford Basketball, which was followed by a Final Four in the Twins' first year, plus a series of Pac-10 Championships and #1 national rankings. The Collins Twins elevated Mike Montgomery and Stanford Hoops to previously unthinkable heights, and only after they were gone did many Cardinalmaniacs™ realize the once-in-a-lifetime impact of those otherworldly twin towers.
Make that "once in a decade."
Mark February 7, 2005 down on your calendar, and save the date for future anniversary celebrations, because Stanford has once again received commitments from an elite pair of post playing twins. Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez, the famed 6'11" athletic frontcourt phenoms from Fresno (Calif.), have pledged their commitments verbally to Trent Johnson and Stanford. The Lopez Twins are not only the biggest recruiting news in nearly a decade for the Stanford program, given both need and ability, but they also are the earliest ever commitments in Cardinal Hoops history. Their joint pledge edges the commitment given by Peter Prowitt in March of his junior year in 2003.
The Lopez Twins were thought to be a recruitment that might extend into the spring or even the summer, given the insistence by their mother, Deborah Ledford (Stanford Class of '71), that they would have to wait until after their high school basketball season to take official visits. Not only have the twins received blanket interest on the West Coast, but they also have attracted coaches from the top powers back East to watch them play. It could have been a crowded contest if their recruitment has extended into the April evaluation period or beyond, but upon receiving recent good news from the Stanford Admissions Office, the family felt that in good faith they should pull the trigger.
"The boys have always wanted to play at Stanford. It's been their dream," says Ledford. "Basically, I wouldn't feel right stringing along other schools. The top colleges in the nation have been interested in the boys: Duke, UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Wake Forest, UCLA, USC, UNLV and more I can't remember. But I just think it's dishonest to keep them involved if you reach a point where you know where you want to commit and you can make that commitment. Their hearts are with Stanford. I know that we're supposed to keep schools involved - that's how the game is play - but why string them along? Why waste their time? Let them spend their time, money and energies on other big men. We appreciate all their interest and really thank them for looking at the boys."
"Also, if the Twins commit now, then that helps the interest with other players looking at Stanford," she adds.
The reverberations felt from these commitments will indeed be felt throughout the 2006 class, where Stanford has six scholarships to give. The first official visitor from the current high school junior crop was 6'3" combo guard Jason Bohannon, who took his official trip at the same time that the Lopez Twins unofficially visited The Farm two weekends ago.
"I told Jason that I enjoyed the atmosphere at Stanford, and he'd be a great addition to our class at Stanford," Brook says of his discussion with the point guard recruit.
As early as this landmark commitment may be, according to his mother, Brook articulated a desire to be a Cardinal long, long ago.
"I remember exactly what he said," Ledford recalls. "Brook said to me, 'Mom, I think before I play in the NBA, I'm going to play at Stanford.' He was in the second grade."
"I chose Stanford for the academics," Brook explains of his decision. "They best prepare you for the rest of your life, after basketball is over. The academics are really great."
"Even if my basketball career doesn't work out," Robin echoes, "it would be great to have Stanford on my résumé. Educationally, they're brilliant."
The recruitment of the Lopez Twins has been long in the works for the Cardinal, dating back to when Mike Montgomery still roamed the sideline at Maples Pavilion.
"We've really known we wanted to commit to Stanford since our freshman year," Brook shares. "We came to a game at Maples - I think it was against Washington. It was so exciting."
The Lopez Twins signed up to attend the Stanford High Potential Camp that summer, though Robin was unable to play with a broken foot. Brook had his first experience working alongside the Cardinal coaches that June, and he was joined this past summer by Robin again for the overnight camp on The Farm. The relationship formed during those camps, as well as during several games their sophomore year when they unofficially visited Stanford, forged a strong bond between the young twin towers and the Stanford coaches. Even an earth-shaking transition at the top could not topple their love for the Card.
"At first, it was disappointing when Coach Montgomery left, of course," Brook admits. "But then we met Coach Johnson and learned about his history at Stanford and saw what things he did at Nevada. He knows what he's doing, and I think it would be great to play for him. He wants to build the team around us, and how can you not like that? Robin and I will play the high-low, and he thinks the class we will have will take us to the Final Four our freshman year."
Johnson has been preaching the inside-out offense this year, which has taken shape and had improving success in a difficult transition year for Stanford. The future of that offense was in Maples recently for the Oregon game, when the Lopez Twins in the 2006 class were joined by 2005 signee Mitch Johnson. The Seattle point guard has drawn rave reviews from the Cardinal coaching staff, and that excitement has spread to Fresno.
"Coach Johnson wants to run the inside-out game and he's already got a great point guard recruit coming in next year," Brook comments. "Mitch likes to push the ball and he likes to set up his teammates. He seems great. It should be a lot of fun playing with him."
It is impossible for Stanford fans to not share the unbridled enthusiasm for the future of this program, with the building blocks that Trent Johnson is assembling. There are still four more scholarships to give in this 2006 class, and the Lopez Twins mark the beginning rather than an end to a long recruiting road ahead. But as an athletic duo who have an exciting array of abilities in the high and low post, these 6'11" commitments are the news of the year for Stanford Basketball, if not Stanford Athletics.
We will follow up soon with a report on the basketball evaluations of Brook & Robin Lopez, as well as news from their junior season at San Joaquin Memorial High School.
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