The legacy of Stanford's 2004 High Potential Camp keeps growing.
Not only did all three of the Cardinal's commits in the 2006 recruiting class attend the overnight camp 13 months ago, as they wrapped up their sophomore years... but also a key talent in the 2007 class came onto the radar.
A youngster, just 15 years old and fresh out of his freshman year of high school, started to tear up the second session of the HiPo Camp while playing in the "Big 12" division. Counselors noted the talent of Tyler Bernardini and moved him up to the top conference at the camp: the Pac-10. From there, the 6'2" 165-pound newcomer advanced to the finals of both the one-on-one and three-on-three championships. Bernardini stunned camp-mates and coaches alike by winning the one-on-one competition, defeating players primarily two years his senior.
"It was definitely a thrill to win," he remembers. "Talk about an underdog."
The rising talent from San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker School was set for a breakout sophomore season. One last camp before he rolled into the fall brought him to the Pangos All Frosh-Soph Camp, where he made the all-star team but also broke his foot.
Bernardini was in a cast for two and a half months and carefully measured his rehabilitation and return to the hardwood. In late December, he rejoined the Lancers for the Torrey Pines Holiday Prep Classic but reinjured his foot. By the time he made his second return, the season was nearly complete. Bernardini finished his much-abbreviated sophomore year averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals per game. He did show some flashes, including a 22-point effort in his second game back (after second injury) against Rancho Bernardo.
"The entire year was one big recovery project," the sophomore sums up.
Playing healthy this spring and summer, Bernardini has started to finally make a name for himself. He played in the April period of AAU basketball with the H-Squad, including the Fullcourt Press Las Vegas Spring Classic where he made the All-Tourney Team. At the Fullcourt Press All-West Camp earlier this month in Cypress (Calif.), Bernardini made the final all-star game of the 30 top players among more than 300 in attendance. The San Diego standout was the high scorer on his team, to boot. Scout.com West Coast recruiting analyst Greg Hicks was in attendance and caught some of Bernardini's action.
"He has a good frame - should fill out pretty well," Hicks begins. "He's got some length to him and very good basketball actions. Even in a camp environment, you can see that he knows how to play the game. He seems to be a fairly good athlete, although I didn't see exceptional explosiveness or quickness. He's got a very nice shot, especially off the catch, with range beyond the stripe. I didn't see him creating much off the dribble - not sure about his ability to get his own shot. I like the way he competes and he has some toughness. Good defender. He's still got two years to go, but he should definitely be a mid major prospect and quite possibly higher."
Before the All-West camp, Bernardini made his way to a pair of college camps in June. The Parker product trekked across the country to camp at Duke in mid-June, before a return to the Golden State and his second straight stint at Stanford's HiPo Camp.
"I went to the Duke camp from the 11th to the 15th. It was awesome," he shares. "The competition was just decent during the day, but at night they brought the [Duke] players out. I got to play with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams."
"But I liked HiPo Camp better," Bernardini adds. "You get better competition. Plus they put so many more things into a day. You get a whole lot out of it."
The Cardinal coaching staff was impressed with Bernardini for the second straight year, though they may have not immediately recognized him. He is listed by some as 6'6", but we are conservatively calling Bernardini 6'5" for now, and he carries 193 pounds. With a size 16 shoe and 6'9" wingspan, there may be more growth ahead.
"I've never had one major growth spurt but have seemingly grown consistently since I was young," he describes. "The doctors have said I have a few more inches in me and wouldn't be surprised if I get to 6'8". Even though I've been growing, I've transitioned my game dramatically from a forward to a wing, with a heavy emphasis on ballhandling."
Bernardini has a great feel for the game and an array of skills. He is best known as a catch-and-shoot assassin, and that strength will not fade with his 500-1,000 jumpers he takes each day. It is the broader development of his game which currently holds his focus.
"Stanford liked my play at the HiPo Camp, and Trent Johnson talked to me specifically," the 2007 recruit recalls. "He said I'm very talented and very skilled, and he would like to see me vary my scoring up. He was anxious to see more of me this summer."
"I'm in the gym every day," Bernardini describes. "I hit the weight room two days on, one off or one day one, one day off - depending on what basketball I have coming up. I'm not focused on getting big - just want to gain strength and tone in my muscles. I also work on my game for an hour and a half to two hours each day. I try to focus not just on myself and my shot, but also on getting other guys open. Set screens and pass the ball. I want to become an all-around player - more than just a shooter. Defend, pass and work on getting to the basket. Right now, if somebody is going to play me they say: He's a shooter. That's the label I get right now."
Bernardini is anxious to show college coaches what he is all about, and after a total loss of a sophomore high school season, he has made a tough decision regarding his AAU basketball. In the spring he played with H-Squad, which is one of the more talented rosters in Southern California each year, but his exposure was limited.
"Since my entire sophomore year was a recovery one, my family and I felt this summer it was very important for me to play and be on the floor as much as possible," he explains. "With H-Squad, I received minutes on the basis of my role as a pure shooter. I would go in to spark the team with four or five three's - instant offense type of stuff. Playing with incredible athletes was appealing, but it didn't serve my overall growth as a basketball player. I felt that playing with a lesser profile team and playing the entire game would serve me and my improvement best."
This week in Las Vegas, and then in the Best of Summer event in Los Angeles, you will find Bernardini playing with the San Diego Magic. The 2007 wing has a chance to be the showcase player on that squad, but it is a gamble for him. The San Diego Magic are at The Main Event this week; however, you will not find Bernardini or his team at Durango High School where most college coaches will congregate. How many will make the trip to see him in his three pool play games at Spring Valley HS?
"Stanford is number one for me, by far and away," the San Diegan says. "That is someplace I have always hoped to go."
Bernardini currently carries a 3.62 GPA and will take the SAT for the first time in the fall. But this next week of basketball is an equally big test for him. His absence on the high school scene throughout his sophomore year has him underexposed in the Pac-10. He says he receives mail from Oregon, Washington, USC and Cal, though none of them have been as personalized and persistent in their pursuit as the aforementioned four schools. Mississippi State and Texas Tech have been intermittently involved as well.
What we do know is that Tyler Bernardini, though quiet in his recruiting profile thus far, is one of the best bets to be a focal recruit for Stanford in the coming year. We will continue following his story and keep you abreast of his latest as his tale evolves. Stay tuned.
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