Harrison Commits, Bekkering Beckons

Last week Stanford Women's Basketball snared their fourth 2006 verbal commitment in the form of 6'3" Michelle Harrison. The Utah guard gave the Cardinal their third Top 50 commit this year and solidified a top ranking for this class. Not yet satisfied, Tara VanDerveer has a fifth and final prospect in her cross hairs: Janelle Bekkering. Little has been known of the 5'11" Canadian wing, until today...

Already loaded with a consensus All-American center and a pair of playmaking point guards, Stanford rounded out their 2006 recruiting class last week when they landed guard Michelle Harrison.  A rare player, the super-sized wing plays on the perimeter despite standing eye-to-eye at 6'3" with Brooke Smith.  Harrison's skills at her size have made her the center of attention throughout her prep basketball career, and that was again the case the night she made her college commitment.

"It was kind of a little party, with snacks and people mingling," Harrison describes.  "Everyone gathered around to listen when I made the call on speakerphone."

With scholarship offers from more than 30 schools, the Orem (Utah) Mountain View High School senior could go just about anywhere in the country she might desire.  A lengthy process narrowed her field to four schools, where she took her official visits: Stanford, Cal, Kansas State and Texas Tech.  Though there was some speculation that the Cardinal could be the winner in these sweepstakes, mum was the word as Harrison dialed the phone.

"I didn't tell anybody.  My family pretty much assumed I could go to Stanford, and they were really trying to get it out of me.  I told them they would just have to wait until the phone call," Harrison laughs.

Answering on the other end of the line that night was Tara VanDerveer.  "I just wanted to call and tell you that I am coming to Stanford," she told the Cardinal head coach.

"Everybody was excited.  They cheered," the recruit relays.  "People talk about the chance to go to Stanford and say, 'Oh my gosh.'  But the aura is not what did it for me.  Stanford was the best fit for me.  All-around, it just felt right.  Everything clicked - the relationships, the campus and the fit.  You just feel so comfortable; it feels like home.  When you're visiting Stanford, you feel like you've been there for a lifetime and shouldn't leave."

Harrision's official visit to Stanford this month sealed the deal, but she credits her unofficial trip last spring in opening her eyes and paving the way for this commitment.

"It started on the unofficial.  I didn't realize how awesome Stanford was," she shares.  "That was the beginning.  Then the official visit was amazing and confirmed that Stanford was the best fit for me.  I followed my instincts and my heart."

Ranked by Scout.com as the #31 overall recruit in the 2006 class, and a possible McDonald's All-American, Harrison will bring a good deal of hype with her to The Farm... as well as some confusion.  Given her height, most observers and analysts view her through the lens of post player, but that has never been Michelle Harrison's game.

I can play a little three/four but mainly the three.  Maybe in the future I will play a little two in college.  Tara has told me she likes me because I'm a big wing.  'We do not have that size at guard.'  If I come in and work real hard, hopefully I can help give Stanford something unique," the newest Cardinal commit describes.

Harrison hails from Utah, a unique recruiting destination, but more unusual is the fifth target Stanford is looking to land this weekend.  5'11" wing Janelle Bekkering from Taber, Alberta in Canada has been nearly invisible on the recruiting radar.  Canadian players are difficult enough to find and follow in girls high school basketball, but tiny Taber is far removed from the major population and basketball centers in the Great White North - e.g. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal.  Her high school, W.R. Myers, is unfortunately most well known for the 1999 shooting that followed one week after the Columbine tragedy.

But the Bekkering family is making a new name for the school as a basketball hotbed.  Janelle's two older sisters played for the University of Calgary, and the youngest of her two older brothers has joined the Dinos this fall as a freshman.  Her other brother, Henry, is a 6'7" redshirt sophomore forward at Eastern Washington but is better known for a dazzling dunk in a high school all-star game that widely circulated around the Internet and netted him several television appearances in the U.S.

Those athletic genes are abundant in the youngest Bekkering.  Though Janelle stands at just 5'11", she can touch the rim and once injured her shoulder pinning a rebound against the backboard.  The last three years she has played with the Canadian National Team, and in 2004 she was a key contributor that qualified her country for the first time for the FIBA U-19 World Championships.  This past summer she played in Tunisia in those World Championships, which you may remember also included Candice Wiggins as a captain for the gold medal Team USA squad.  Bekkering at just 16-years old (she turned 17 this month) was two years younger than most participants but played beyond her years as Canada's leading three-point shooter and one of their top rebounders.

A great leaper as well as a skilled basketball player, Bekkering projects to play as a 'three' or 'two' in college.  Adding her on the wing with Harrison would seem unfair for Stanford's competition in the years to come, but the Cardinal are in a position to possibly corral the Canadian star.  Bekkering fielded offers from a solid number of Division I programs in the United States and zeroed in on four: Stanford, Gonzaga, Oregon and Utah.  The latter two have been eliminated, leaving the Cardinal and Zags to battle for the Alberta athlete.

Bekkering took her official visit to Spokane (Wash.) four weeks ago, and newly admitted to Stanford, she is on campus today on The Farm.  While Tara VanDerveer and the Cardinal are tough to beat for student-athletes once they have been admitted, there are several draws to Gonzaga worth noting.  Spokane is a 400-mile drive from Taber, and while that is a whale of a drive, it is still a driving distance.  Closer still would be her oldest brother, Henry, who at Eastern Washington is just a 20-minute drive from the Spokane campus.  A handful of Gonzaga women's basketball games are broadcast on KHQ-TV, which can be received by her parents in Taber.

Working on behalf of the Cardinal this weekend will not only be the coaching staff but also a pair of verbal commits who are also on their official visits.  6'4" Jayne Appel and 5'10" JJ Hones, ranked by Scout.com as the #5 and #36 overall players in the 2006 class, respectively, both gave their pledges to Stanford in the summer and have taken unofficial visits to The Farm prior to this weekend's official trips.

With the early signing period just 11 days away, we expect Bekkering's decision between the Cardinal and Zags to come soon.  Stay tuned for all the latest here on The Bootleg, as Stanford seeks its fifth and final piece in their acclaimed 2006 recruiting class.

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