The roll that Stanford Basketball has enjoyed the last month-plus has done more than boost the Cardinal's NCAA Tournament prospects. The wins (nine in their last 11 games) have also elevated their stock to a national audience of recruits who are monitoring the program's viability and future under first-year head coach Trent Johnson. For prospective student-athletes who live outside the West Coast, regionally televised basketball broadcasts can limit how much of the Cardinal they can see. Take the case of Jason Bohannon, the 6'3" combo guard from Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa. The best exposure he had watching Stanford through the preseason was the pimp-slapping they took from Michigan State on the Spartans' turf. Not long afterward, the Card began their conference play with a three-game skid to quickly settle in last place.
But by the time Bohannon arrived on campus for his official visit three weeks ago, he found a completely different team. The three-star guard sat in the stands of Maples Pavilion as Stanford tore apart Oregon in a 88-69 clinic. The Card fired on all cylinders for their sixth straight win, and the Iowan's eyes were as wide as the grin on his face.
"They played with such good chemistry. The guards find the open man and get easy baskets. Matt Haryasz was just great, on both ends of the floor," Bohannon describes. "I had seen Stanford just a few times before, and they didn't look anything like that team. Trent Johnson makes his teams better for the end of the year - he did that last year at Nevada. It's great to see how much they have improved, and everything I see says they're a lock for the NCAA Tournament."
The basketball was good, but for the Midwestern recruit, there was something more personal he wanted to gleam from his visit. He is familiar with the gyms and crowds around him in Big 10 country but needed to see for himself how basketball is supported on the West Coast, and on The Farm in particular.
"One of the main things I wanted to see - that's why I did this early visit - was the atmosphere for a game, and how the campus is. That Oregon game at Maples was great, and I loved the campus," Bohannon reports. "They had a great student section that stayed up all game. The band played the whole time. They jumped up and down every time the other team had the ball. They made the gym really loud."
Remaining official visits will wait until the spring, but Bohannon is still active in assessing his recruiters. This past weekend he made the short drive to Iowa City for their big matchup against #1-ranked Illinois. The Hawkeyes lost a tight game, but Bohannon was not disappointed.
"They played a pretty good game. It's tough playing with Illinois and players like Dee Brown," the in-state recruit comments. "It was my second game at Iowa this year. Their student section hasn't been as good this year, but they really got it going for Illinois, the #1-ranked team in the country. I talked to the coaches a little afterward, but not much - they were pretty disappointed about the loss."
Up next, Bohannon is planning a Saturday stroll to Madison to see his third favorite and offer school, Wisconsin, as they host Purdue on March 5. That would be an unofficial visit, as was the case for the Iowa game, and Bohannon is dodging any comparisons with Stanford until other schools have the chance to lay out the full official visit experience. He does say, however, that the Cardinal have set the bar high with the weekend they gave him.
"It gave me a great feel for the environment and the campus. Everybody supports them," he says of Stanford. "It's going to be tough for the others to measure up."
One critical piece still not in place for Bohannon and the Cardinal is the recruit's admissions application. He recently concluded his first semester term of his junior year and had his application sent by his counselor to Stanford, but a review by the Admissions Office led to an additional request for a graded writing sample, which Bohannon hopes to have in by the end of this week. Both the recruit and the Cardinal coaches, he says, are optimistic and hopeful that he will ultimately be accepted by the school.
With his recruiting horizon still a ways away, Bohannon is squarely focused on his high school junior season currently. The Linn-Mar Lions have lost just one game all year, a tough three-point defeat to Iowa City West, but they have bounced back and fixed what Bohannon believes was a critical failing that cost them that game and seriously threatened their state championship title defense.
"We had a few games straight where we started out so slow and were down at the half. We had three in a row like that where we came back to win by 15-20 points, but it finally caught up with us," the junior floor general reports. "I had to try to be a leader and show everybody the energy we needed early in the game."
The energy has infected the team, as the Lions have roared and rolled over opponents since. In their last game Friday night, Bohannon belted out 23 points, eight boards and seven assists. "It was just one of those games where everything on offense kind of clicked," he says. "They tried to make it an up-tempo game to take it at us, and we pushed it right back at them."
On the year, Bohannon is averaging 20.5 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He is shooting the ball just shy of 45% from three-point range.
"I'm getting to the basket more this year. I did a lot of lifting last summer, and I feel I can take it to the big guys better now," he offers. "At the beginning of the year, I don't think I was playing that great. I wasn't used to the point guard spot. Then my coach emphasized getting everybody involved, and things have come together since."
In addition to the heavy attention and offers from Stanford, Iowa and Wisconsin, Bohannon's basketball play has attracted coaches from Indiana, Northwestern and North Carolina State in recent weeks. The Wolfpack have been a school who have sniffed around the Iowa guard for some time, and now they are stepping up their efforts.
The story of Jason Bohannon remains one of the top stories we are following this year, and we will keep you updated on all the latest from his junior season, his national recruitment as well as his Stanford admissions news. Stay tuned.
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