In late May 2004, Stanford Basketball and its recruiting were in a whirlwind. Top 100 recruits were either taking official visits or postponing official visits to Stanford in the wake of head coach Mike Montgomery's sudden jump to the Golden State Warriors. Through several heart-stopping days without a head coach, the Cardinal program shined brightly. Four-star forward Lawrence Hill boarded a plane and came to Stanford in the coaching vacuum, later committing to the Cardinal despite never having met new head coach Trent Johnson in person. Stanford fended off Georgia Tech, Cal and others for the services of shooting guard Anthony Goods, and later they managed to defeat hometown favorite Washington for coveted point guard Mitchell Johnson.
These stories from the 2005 recruiting class were all covered in detail here at The Bootleg, but there was a smaller, unnoticed event in that last week of May 2004 that is being strongly felt in Cardinal 2006 recruiting today.
For Stanford's 2004 High Potential Camp, Amanda Reveno, wife of associate head coach Eric Reveno, served as the camp director. Will Paul, a young forward from Corpus Christi (Tex.) had previously signed up and paid to attend the approaching overnight Stanford Basketball camp in late June. Then the news hit of Montgomery's move to the NBA coaching ranks. The fairer Reveno fielded a phone call from a concerned father in Corpus Christi, who wanted to pull his son out of the camp after hearing of the head coaching hit on The Farm.
"My oldest son went to Navy, so I knew all about how recruiting works," Matt Paul begins. "When a head coach leaves, you lose the relationship and everything that connected the school to your kid. With Montgomery gone, I had serious reservations about whether Will should still go out there for camp."
"Stanford had invited Will his sophomore year to come to their High Potential Camp between his sophomore and his junior year," the father continues. "I called up and talked to Amanda and told her I thought it might not be best for Will to go. She told me that all the assistants were still there and were staying on. There wasn't a head coach yet, but there was going to be continuity."
The elder Paul was swayed by the sales job from the eight-year Stanford assistant's wife. His son followed through with the original plan and payment to attend the first session of the 2004 High Potential Camp, and the rest is history. Last Thursday, Will Paul had his admissions application accepted by Stanford and immediately gave his commitment to Trent Johnson and the Cardinal. The 6'9" 220-pound skilled forward gives Stanford their third verbal commitment in this 2006 class, and they likely owe much of this latest catch to the groundwork laid a year ago at that camp.
Playing his high school basketball in quiet Corpus Christi, which is known more for its surfing than its basketball, Paul was a sleeper on the radar of national recruiting services this past year. He gained some attention from college programs when he played with his AAU squad, Team Hoop Zone, in the 2004 Reebok Big Time tournament in Las Vegas last July, but not until this spring did he start to make a name for himself.
Paul lines up with 7'1" four-star center Josh Lomers on his AAU team, and the big Texan drew a number of college coaches to games this spring. You probably have never heard of Team Hoop Zone, a small Austin-based club without any shoe affiliation, but Lomers was a lightning rod for attention that helped elevate Paul's exposure. At the final event of the April 2005 evaluation period, Paul and Team Hoop Zone played in-state at the king of spring AAU tournaments - the Kingwood Classic. Lomers played only in the early going at the Houston event before he headed home for his prom.
Without Lomers, fewer coaches came to see Paul's team, though Trent Johnson followed the forward game by game.
"We didn't have our 7'1" guy that day - Josh left for his prom - but we played two games in the morning and won handily. Will played well," details Team Hoop Zone head coach Bill Wendlandt. "Coach Johnson was there for the morning games, and then one of the Stanford assistants watched our game that night. We played Friends of Hoop, a team from Seattle, and Will totally dominated the game. He had 39 points. He was blocking shots, scoring, rebounding - just doing everything. Will truly scored inside and out in that game."
A couple weeks after his blow-up at the Kingwood Classic, Paul was offered a scholarship by Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt. Colorado State had been on the south Texas talent for some time, and they offered along with Georgetown.
The secret of Will Paul was a thing of the past, and we could not ignore the similarity to a like story one year earlie, which ended badly for Stanford. The Cardinal had made a decisively positive evaluation of Chicago combo guard Bobby Frasor dating back to the summer of 2003, and recruited him hard long before the rest of the world woke up to his abilities. Then Frasor blew up at the 2004 Kingwood Classic, hitting every shot in the gym against a high profile AAU team that brough a host of college coaches in attendance. One was North Carolina's Roy Williams, who proceeded to follow Frasor the rest of the weekend. The ACC school offered the guard after that weekend and ultimately stole the McDonald's All-American from Stanford's clutches.
Paul did not have as powerful a weekend in April 2005 as Frasor did in April 2004 at the Kingwood, but similarly, the suitors swooped in, including a Top 25 ACC program.
Stanford held their ground this go-around, due in part to the coaching stability that was absent last spring when Frasor made his decision, but also due in large part to the extensive groundwork the Cardinal laid in their relationship with Paul starting with his time at the 2004 High Potential Camp. You may have seen a couple scattered stories about Paul on other recruiting services this spring, after his breakout performances in Houston, and the forward recruit consistently proclaimed Stanford as his number one school of choice.
"I got my application from Stanford in March. I remember thinking that I didn't need to get it done right away, so I set it aside while I thought about my essays," Paul explains. "I was constantly thinking about what to write. The pressure was building. For every essay on the application, I could have written about a basketball experience, but I knew it was better to use other life experiences. The more I sat on it, the better ideas I got. It comes to you."
"I finished the application two or three days before camp," he continues. "I brought it with me to hand to them. Afterward, I was just hoping and praying that I would get accepted."
On July 7, the phone rang in Corpus Christi, with Trent Johnson on the other end of the line.
"Coach Johnson called and told me the good news, which was exciting. I was confident but always knew in the back of my mind that I could get rejected," Paul describes. "I just exhaled really deeply and said to myself, 'Yes.'"
"I made my commitment right away," he says. "That's where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to verbally commit before I was accepted, so it was just a matter of waiting to get accepted. I'm relieved to not have this hanging over me this month. Now I can just focus on trying to play well for my team. I didn't want to worry about what colleges would show up at my games."
While the Georgia Tech offer will grab the attention of recruitniks who measure players by their offer list, Paul says he may have ended up at Georgetown, had the bottom fallen out on Stanford (i.e. denied admissions). His older brother, Rob, graduated from the Naval Academy this past spring, which brought the family to Annapolis (Md.). Matt and Will Paul took a side trip to Georgetown for a closer look at the Hoyas and their campus.
"It is impressive - all the people they have who have gone on to the NBA. Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson. Andrew Bogut, who went #1 in the draft, was there all spring training," the recruit recalls. "We went to the MCI Center and saw the campus. They showed us a great time, and it worked. It was a great experience."
Despite the kudos from Paul, the Hoyas had to still chase Stanford, who continued in the driver's seat with their relationship and impressions dating back a year.
"It was nice," Paul says of Georgetown. "But I had been to Stanford, and Stanford was nicer."
We will never know if Will Paul would have ended up at Georgetown or Georgia Tech. Or if the recruiting interest from Oklahoma and Virginia would have continued rising and materialized into something tempting. Paul precluded those questions from being answered when his 4.72 (five-point scale) GPA and 1290 SAT helped him gain admission to The Farm.
Next, we will explore Will Paul's basketball ability to help project him as a college player for Stanford's future.
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