After more than a year of build-up, the tale of Spencer Hawes is approaching its denouement. The 6'11" center from Seattle (Wash.) Prep at long last is taking his official visits, and is emphatic about reaching a decision for his college future soon thereafter.
"I'm ready to get to a decision," Hawes says. "I'll commit as quickly as I can after my visits are done."
Last weekend brought Scout.com's #3 player in the 2006 class to North Carolina, where he had a whale of a time. While much was made of Hawes' opportunity to see the Tar Heels receive their national championship rings, it was a larger experience which impacted the recruit.
"It exceeded my every expectation. The visit was unbelievable," he reports. "It was the whole atmosphere back there. The town, the university, the people I met, the fan support, the arena - all just incredible."
"It's hard to know what a place will be like. You can't judge from a distance," Hawes adds. "But it definitely left a really good impression on me."
While the five-star recruit disagrees with the notion that the bar has been set high by UNC, the Tar Heels started off his official visit triple-shot with a bang. Up next for Hawes is Stanford on Friday and Saturday.
"I'm going into this visit the same I did the first," Hawes maintains. "I'm not going to try and compare the two places. Just take my visit and not carry any impression with me there. I want to spend time with the guys at Stanford and see what the place is all about."
The question of the day for Cardinalmaniacs™, however, is not about Hawes' psyche coming into this weekend. Instead, there is the matter of the Stanford admissions application. What few fans around college hoopdom recognize is that a prospective student-athlete must submit the entire admissions application to Stanford just the same as other high schooler hopefuls. Every player on the current Cardinal roster, and all those who came before them, were successfully admitted to the school. Numerous blue chip prizes have slipped through Stanford's grasp when they failed to pass muster.
Mike Montgomery was fond of saying that admissions was the only thing that ultimately controlled the fate of a Cardinal recruitment. While that may be an oversimplification, it is an undeniable truth that a recruit who does not apply will never matriculate on The Farm. Consequently, the intractable tea leaf reading that has consumed fans of Stanford, North Carolina and Washington can be simplified to this:
(1) If Spencer Hawes does not apply to Stanford, then he will not sign with Stanford.
Logically speaking, the inverse of that statement is not necessarily true, but the application is indeed a meaningful indicator at this stage in Hawes' recruitment. He traveled to Chapel Hill (N.C.) last weekend without having completed his Stanford application - a bad sign for Trent Johnson and the Cardinal. Hawes has been very open since he returned from Tobacco Road about the positive impact his UNC visit left upon him. If the recruit did not submit his application to Stanford before that visit, then he might be less likely (or less motivated) to complete the application afterward. And we know from (1) that no application is no bueno for the Cardinal.
With that all said, let us cut to the chase. Where is the prized post recruit in the application process?
"I have just the last little essay part to go. There are three small essays and one longer essay you have to write. I'm on that last big essay," Hawes told us Wednesday evening. "I'm trying to do it tonight, when my homework allows me. My goal is to bring my application and turn it in on my visit. If not, then I'll finish it the week after."
Whether Hawes submits his application in person this weekend, or if he drops it in the mail next week, the very fact that he is working on his Stanford admissions packet after experiencing the official visit at North Carolina is telling. He has had that paperwork in his possession for quite some time, and to do any work now, at the proverbial 11th hour, strongly suggests that Stanford is very much a viable option in his mind.
Of course, Hawes will tell you that the fact that he is taking a visit to The Farm this weekend should give us that information. He has had no qualms about knocking other schools off his list, even when he publicly stated that he would officially visit them. But what of the rumors that Hawes is either silently committed or knows that he will commit to the Tar Heels?
"If I knew where I was going to commit, then I would commit," the Seattleite says. "I'm going on these trips because I still don't know where I will commit."
One other tea leaf that has been scrutinized is the absence of an official visit date for the hometown Huskies. Though Hawes has held a final list of three schools for the last two weeks, with visit dates set for both UNC and Stanford, no date has yet been delivered for Washington. Does that suggest that the Huskies may not receive an official visit? Perhaps a brief unofficial visit would suffice?
"I'll take an official visit," he replies. "It's eight minutes away, so I don't exactly have to book any travel. It's not like I need to book plane tickets in advance."
Hawes says that he will likely take a weekend and not a mid-week official visit to Washington. It remains to be seen whether that will come immediately following his Stanford trip, or the next week.
In addition to the official visits, this is also the time when head coaches are making their travel to Seattle to visit with Hawes. Trent Johnson came in first, last week. Lorenzo Romar will drive across town this coming Monday. Roy Williams will have the third and final in-person appearance, coming on September 29.
Johnson is a Seattle native himself and has connected well with Hawes in this recruitment, helping put the Cardinal in the final trio. The recruit offers a piece of the message he is receiving from the Stanford head coach:
"They will give me the opportunity to expand my game and improve myself as an individual along with their team," Hawes relates. "Stanford is a place where I can be successful on the court and off the court. It's more or less the same message I am hearing from all three places, though there are some differences. One difference for Stanford is that they would focus more on my perimeter development than the others."
Those skills have been consistent through a number of Cardinal big men in recent years, from Jason Collins to Jarron Collins to Curtis Borchardt to Matt Haryasz. But there is the additional wrinkle that Hawes would be teammates and classmates with Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. That trio shared the same floor at the end of July in the Las Vegas Prep Basketball Showcase, though Hawes was an opponent of the Lopez Twins on that day. It has remained an open question of whether he would want to line up on the same team with them in college or not. Would that be too crowded of a frontcourt?
"I think the Lopez Twins are a positive for me at Stanford," Hawes opines. "They would be more help."
Of more immediate import for the official visitor on The Farm this weekend is not a pair of 6'11" posts, but rather a 6'1" point guard. Friend and former AAU teammate Mitch Johnson will host Hawes on his Stanford visit, and the two have been talking about his trip for some time.
"I just told Mitch to make sure I have a good time," the five-star recruit laughs. "I don't really know all what we're going to do, but I do know that we'll get to play together, which will be cool."
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