When you are Stanford, you search high and low to find a high-major girls basketball player with a high GPA. This year's digging has taken Tara VanDerveer and the Cardinal to tiny Taber in Alberta, Canada. Home to just 8,000 people, the small town has little to boast in the way of basketball - save one family. The Bekkering clan has sent three children to college basketball in Canada and another to Eastern Washington south of the border. The fifth and youngest, Janelle Bekkering, looks to be the best of the lot. The senior student-athlete at W.R. Myers High School has earned a rousing recruitment by some Division I dandies, despite a path divergent from the U.S. camps and tournaments typical of a high-major prospect.
The first time the 5'11.5" athlete was exposed to U.S. college coaches came in the summer of 2004. The Canadian Junior National Team was in the thick of their tryouts, which formed a historic squad that qualified Canada for the first time for the FIBA U-19 World Championships in 2005. The Team Canada coach opened one practice to a gathering of college coaches who were in town to watch the Nike Canada Camp. A springy athlete with skills and a feel for the game, Bekkering bounced onto the Division I recruiting map.
Her exposure expanded that Christmas, when she participated in a well-known holiday Canadian camp. After her junior high school season, Stanford made an extra trip for their final evaluation of Bekkering in a south Alberta spring league with college players at the University of Lethbridge.
"I knew I wanted to stay out West, so that made it easier. I eliminated the Eastern schools," Bekkering describes. "That left Utah, Oregon, Stanford and Gonzaga. Later I decided that I didn't want to take a trip to Oregon. I just didn't think it would be the place for me. The other places offered something more - like Stanford and Gonzaga with their academics."
"I took my Utah visit in September - it was a Wednesday-Friday trip because of a volleyball game. Then I went to Gonzaga, which was a Thursday-Friday trip because of another volleyball game," she continues. "After those, I decided to pick who I liked from those two. At Gonzaga, I liked the feeling a lot better - that and the distance factor."
Bekkering bided her time through most of October before taking her final official visit to Stanford, as she waited on her admissions application to be accepted by the school. She took the long-awaited trip to The Farm this past weekend, running from Saturday through Monday.
"Stanford has a really beautiful campus, and their basketball is pretty competitive. I saw that just watching them practice," Bekkering reports.
Down to the Cardinal and Zags, the Canadian recruit is hopeful that she can reach a decision in the coming days. The NCAA's fall signing period is less than a week away, running from November 9-16.
"I'll probably decide by the end of the week, or maybe next Monday," Bekkering told The Bootleg Tuesday evening. "I just got home late last night from Stanford and haven't really been able to think about it yet."
In her mind, the strengths of the two schools are clear. It remains a value decision for Bekkering to choose what is most important to her for her four-year college experience.
"Obviously, Stanford has the best education. Gonzaga has the advantage of proximity, being closer to home and just 30 minutes from my brother. My family is very close," she shares.
Henry Bekkering is a redshirt sophomore power forward at Eastern Washington in Cheney (Wash.), a short drive from Spokane. Should Janelle matriculate at Gonzaga the fall of 2006, she would overlap two of her four years with Henry.
Janelle Bekkering has escaped the radar of college recruiting services until The Bootleg and Scout.com came across her story recently. The 5'11.5" prospect is an athletic wing. She can rebound like a forward but does her damage on the offensive end driving to the basket. Though not her primary option to score, Bekkering can also shoot the ball from the perimeter.
Stanford has already landed four verbal commitments from top players in the 2006 class, including three in Scout.com's Top 50 national rankings. Will the Card corral a Canuck for number five? We should know the answer in a matter of days. Stay tuned.
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