If there is one certainty in Stanford Basketball recruiting, it is that the spring and summer are times when the list of hard targets turn into moving targets. Prospects who initially looked hopeful fall by the wayside, as standardized test scores flop, transcripts disappoint and players trim their school lists. It is a sobering time of year, each and every year, but occasionally we see the tide stemmed. Once in a blue moon, the April evaluation period uncovers that sleeping junior who shines brightly and races into our radar.
That story this spring is 6'1" combo guard Byron Faison. The high-flying athlete from Crestwood High School in Sumter, S.C. went from a footnote to a headline in one weekend, when he lit up the competition in the first major AAU event of April at the Boo Williams Invitational. He had token interest from a few schools coming into the spring, but now he is hearing from the SEC and ACC... plus one Pac-10 program 3,000 miles away.
"Stanford starting writing me in December, during the basketball season. I was getting a few letters," Faison details of his history with the Cardinal. "Then they started contacting me more in April. I called them and developed a good relationship with Coach [L.J.] Hepp and Coach [Trent] Johnson. Then Coach [Eric] Reveno came to see me at Crestwood - it was a Thursday, I think the 21st."
"I've learned that Stanford Basketball is great. They have a tradition and want to win. That's what I'm looking for," the recruit continues. "Stanford would give me a chance to play early, too, which I like."
Faison averaged 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists as a junior this past winter at Crestwood High School. He is an athlete who will remind Cardinal fans of Julius Barnes, with his explosiveness and ability to rise above the rim. While Barnes had a stronger handle and manned a good deal of the point guard position during his Cardinal career, Faison is more of a pure scorer with a developing handle. The 2006 guard, by comparison, has a better stroke.
"I think he's a guard with a knack and a passion for scoring," says Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep of Faison. "He can play behind the stripe and rises on his jumper. Of course, we'd love to see him in more action, but from what I can tell, he's a high-major guard with good grades, a feel for the game, and an ability to find the bottom of the cup."
When Scout's new Top 100 rankings are released today, you will not find Faison's name. Telep however says that the emerging talent from the Palmetto State is currently just outside the Top 100, and ranks among the top 30 shooting guards in the country.
"I can do both - shoot from outside and also get in the lane and score against big men," Faison describes. "I'm uncommon for a guard under 6'2". Most of the time, guys go up and look for a little floater. I like to go right at the rim. It intimidates the other team and can give us momentum."
"Stanford says they like the fact that I can score and play defense," he adds. "They want a guard who can score."
In addition to the Cardinal, Faison is now receiving recruiting interest from Auburn, Virginia Tech, Florida State, South Carolina, Clemson and Kentucky. Pull out a map and stick pins in each of these locations, and Stanford is a striking geographical outlier. The Cardinal have lost battles to distance before, and this has the makings of another uphill battle.
"The first time I went past the Mississippi River was Houston, really," Faison says of the trip last month he took with the South Carolina Ravens to the Kingwood Classic.
A second crossing of the Mississippi is just a week away for Faison, as he is scheduled to take his first official visit. The rising guard prospect will fly to The Farm late on May 18, starting his official visit on Thursday the 19th.
"I've never been to California, but I'd like to see how it is," the recruit relates. "Stanford is definitely a place I could be at. It seems like it could be a comfortable place for me."
"Stanford is definitely my number one school right now, to tell you the truth. I love the school," Faison states. "After that, it's up for grabs with the other schools. I like Kentucky a lot, but I'm not ready to say that anybody is number two. Just Stanford is number one."
"But I have to fill out the application for Stanford to get accepted - I'm almost done - to see if I qualify," he notes. "I hope to get my SAT score up a little."
Faison last took the standardized test in June 2004 as a sophomore and scored an NCAA qualifying score, but he has work to do to improve his Stanford admissions prospects. He will take the SAT again on June 4 and says he is hoping for a boost of 100+ points. At Crestwood High School, the standout student-athlete holds down a 3.8 GPA with college prep classes.
While the critical official visit will come in just one week, the story for this South Carolina standout will extend into the summer, while Faison and Stanford both await his SAT retake to complete his admissions application. We will keep tabs with the latest and keep you posted on this exciting scoring guard in the coming weeks.
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