Recruiting for Stanford Basketball moves forward at a pace largely controlled by the admissions application process. Phone calls, incessant letter writing, and unending babysitting by coaches in the stands of recruits' games keeps the Cardinal in the game. Ungodly amounts of hours are poured into those efforts, but in the grand scheme of things, it is little more than foreplay.
So when Jeanette Pohlen this spring narrowed her list of schools to a final three, and Stanford was whispered to be the odds-on favorite, it still meant little until she completed and submitted her application. Late last week, the Brea (Calif.) Brea-Olina High School standout guard received word that she had been admitted by the University. It was a monumental event that ultimately allowed her to make her verbal commitment to the Cardinal late Tuesday night.
"I was kind of in shock," the recruit recalls of her admissions news. "It is such a great achievement. I was excited because being accepted to Stanford is such a great honor."
A much-deserved honor for Pohlen, who is not only one of the great players in the history of one of the great high school girls basketball programs in the nation, but also a standout student. Three times, in three consecutive months, she scheduled and sat for the SAT this spring to maximize her score and admissions chances. She holds a 4.0 weighted GPA (3.6 unweighted) at the top Orange County school, taking courses such as AP U.S. history, honors physics, honors literature III and Japanese III. Pohlen will take AP Japanese next year. Konnichiwa, Pohlensan.
"When I found out that I was admitted, I definitely knew that I needed to go back up there [to Stanford] again," Pohlen shares. "My dad worked hard to make sure I could get there."
Monday night wrapped the Nike Girls Skills Academy in Beaverton (Ore.). Today starts the famed End of the Trail tournament in Oregon City (Ore.), with Pohlen practicing yesterday in town with her AAU team. That left precisely one day where the new admitted Cardinal recruit could see Stanford. She and her mother took the Fourth of July for a one-day trip to The Farm.
"When I went up there the first time, Coach Tara [VanDerveer] was not there. Before this visit, we had only talked on the phone at that point," Pohlen explains. "We wanted to meet her. Also to meet all the girls, including the incoming freshmen. I got to meet all of them this time, talk with Coach Tara, and get a feel for the campus."
"When we first got there," the recruit reports of Tuesday's trip, "we looked around at the different facilities and centers and visited that. We met with Coach Tara and watched a highlight video from last season. We met with the girls, went to eat, and went to see a dorm. I shot around with the girls at Maples Pavilion. Just hung around with the girls and the coaches."
"There wasn't anybody in particular who stood out or made the biggest impression," Pohlen says of the Stanford student-athletes. "They were all welcoming and supportive and nice. They gave me an honest answer to why they decided to go there, and how they enjoyed Stanford. They said that they enjoy the atmosphere, all the people, and of course the education. As far as basketball, they really enjoy Coach Tara. The incoming freshmen all said how much they were looking forward to playing and learning with Coach Tara."
Stanford was the presumptive favorite, and Pohlen enjoyed the euphoria of an admissions acceptance plus a full day of attention and opportunities with the Stanford players and coaches. However, she and her mother walked away from campus without having deliberated or delivered anything definitive on a recruiting decision. Later that evening, while the Pohlens sat at the airport and the Stanford team was living it up at a Fourth of July barbeque, the four-star SoCal guard decided to pick up her phone and call Tara VanDerveer.
"I told her that I wanted to come to Stanford. She was very excited and very welcoming," Pohlen replays. "It was the whole day that cinched it for me. It just felt right. We visited a lot and enjoyed our time together."
How big is this commitment for the Cardinal? As in all recruiting matters, that depends upon who you ask. Opinions vary on Pohlen's game, though it was telling that the three top programs in the Pac-10 offered and comprised her final three: Stanford, Arizona State and USC. For a more detailed perspective, we turn to Chris Hansen, Scout.com National Director of Scouting. Hansen has seen Pohlen plenty of times, including an up-close look at the Nike Skills Academy amidst the elite of the country's elite.
"She isn't the quickest, the fastest. She doesn't have the best shot," Hansen begins. "But she got it done. She competed with the best players in the country, and she proved that she belonged. She hit the open shot, and she got to open balls. She worked hard and really competed."
The 2007 ordinal rankings have not yet been officially unveiled by Scout.com. That will come after the most intense and nationally ambitious month of scouting this July that any service has ever attempted with girls basketball. Hansen projects that Pohlen will be in the "high 20s to low 30s". Rated at four stars today, that places Pohlen among the nation's elite prospects this year and gives Stanford already three Top 50 players committed in this class after landing four Top 50 talents last November.
One question for Pohlen, however, is where she projects to play in college. She is built like a wing, near six-feet and able to rebound like a forward, yet she plays point guard for her high school team and has a strong handle.
"She's a 'three,'" Hansen answers. "She's six-foot and strong. She's quick, but I have a hard time seeing her stay in front of a Candice Wiggins, so I don't know that she would defend some of the 'two's in the Pac-10. Jeanette is tough, gritty and smart, which makes up for the lack of athleticism, though she's not an athletic slouch."
One of the most redeeming qualities of Pohlen is how hard she works and how much she can and does improve herself. A great listener and a very coachable player, the Orange County product is much better bet to overachieve rather than underachieve at the next level.
"She was improving at the camp every day and doing well in all the drills," Hansen says of the Skills Academy. "Her jumper, as they worked through shooting drills, really improved. She came in with her release too low, and she worked with the coaches on it - moved it up about four inches. She really improved. She came out here and did very, very well."
"At the beginning, I kind of came in with a different shot," Pohlen describes. "At the end, the coaches showed me a different way that could probably help me be more successful. They just said that my other hand, my left hand, that holds the ball was getting in the way. I get my hand up, and I shoot it better."
"I think I improved tremendously," she continues. "All the techniques they showed us were great. Even in those three or four days, I improved a fair amount with each drill."
Tough, smart, skilled, versatile and still improving. That is the thumbnail sketch of Jeanette Pohlen, though it still does her little justice. Look for much more this summer and in the coming year on the latest exciting Cardinal commit from TheBootleg.com and Scout.com.
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