There has not been much to report on the 2007 Stanford Basketball recruiting class. In contrast to the five or six scholarships available a year ago, the Cardinal have at most two to offer in this cycle. Fortunately (or not - depending upon your perspective), the 2007 class matches the number of high-level student-athletes that the Cardinal can recruit. For the last few months, we have followed the focused group of two prospective recruits high on Stanford's radar: point guard Tyrel Reed and power forward Josh Owens. There are a couple remote center prospects on the horizon, but not presently appropriate to explore.
Unfortunately, Reed is mostly inaccessible to the media. Owens also was unreachable for the breadth of August when he lost his cell phone and only in the past week secured a replacement. We were pleased to receive a phone call last night from Owens to catch us up on his latest.
"Overall I think I don't think that I played as well this summer, from an offensive standpoint, as I did in Houston," Owens opens, making reference to his sole spring tournament and breakout performance. "But I feel like I played mentally better in July, especially going through the whole month. It's a lot of basketball, and there is a tendency to wear down."
"I was talking with a coach, and he agreed with me. He said that he could see that I was growing in some areas," Owens adds. "It's about how you respond on the court to certain plays. How do you play after a loss. During the tournament, how do you keep your focus at the hotel. I'm more mature and mentally focused now."
Owens was something of an unknown a few months ago, missing almost the entire April evaluation period while he was stuck at school at Phillips Exeter Academy those weekends when his peers in the 2007 class were traveling to the different corners of the country and playing in front of the nation's top college coaches and recruiters. He was able to petition and escape only the final weekend, playing with the New York-based New Heights squad at the Kingwood Classic in Houston (Tex.).
Stanford was already on Owens' trail but were fortunate to witness his play at the end of the spring, subsequently ramping up their recruitment with Owens as their number one forward target. A handful of other schools were also involved, and we expected the list to grow as more coaches watched him in July. It is surprising, however, to hear Owens say in September that he has just four schools on his list: Stanford, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Penn.
Gone are Boston College (where he took an unofficial visit), Georgetown and St. John's. New schools who have tried to become involved, including Rice and California, have been politely refused. The Cardinal and Owens' other three favorites are being rewarded for the length of their interest and pursuit.
"My list is the same four schools who have been with me all the way," he explains. "There have been another dozen schools showing interest, but I wanted to stay with the schools that have been there."
It comes as no surprise that such a focused list of schools has Owens able to schedule his visits of the final foursome. Three were originally scheduled for official visits, and a fourth to Penn was planned as an unofficial this past weekend as Owens traveled north from his home in Austell (Ga.) to Exeter (N.H.). Owens instead stayed home through the holiday weekend and is today returning to school, which leaves his visit to the Quakers campus up in the air.
"I'm going to Notre Dame on September 16, Stanford on September 23 and Vanderbilt on September 30," Owens offers. "I am working to try to set up an official to UPenn. I wanted to stop there this weekend, but that didn't work out. I'll go there in October sometime. I know that I don't want to have four weekends in a row. This will already be pretty crazy."
The activity for Owens will start even sooner, with a pair of head coaches expected to make in-school visits with him this coming weekend. The 6'8" power forward tells The Bootleg that Trent Johnson will be in to talk with him Saturday (9/9) or Sunday (9/10).
"I actually just got off the phone before this with Coach [Mike] Brey," Owens adds. "He will try to come up this coming weekend, after I get there."
Coaches coming to his school. Travel all over the country for official visits. The start of his senior year of school and basketball at Exeter. There is plenty on his plate, but Owens has another task at hand: the Stanford admissions application.
"Right now I'm working on the essays," he reports. "Hopefully I'm going to have a full solid rough draft, take care of the teacher recommendations and then get it in."
While the application might appear a perfunctory part of the big picture for Owens' recruiting process, he says that it is an important and non-trivial undertaking.
"I'm not totally scared, but I'm not assuming that I will get into Stanford," he offers. "I'm approaching the application like any other regular student applying. I don't believe that just because I'm a basketball player, they will let me in. So I'm taking my time and working seriously on the essays."
"If I can get admitted," Owens adds, "that would definitely give Stanford a little boost with me."
For the time being, the Exeter athlete holds that all four of his favorites are even. No 'top school' declaration will pass through these lips.
"The are all in the same boat," he opines. "What is really important to me before I get deeper into the recruiting process is the visits."
Owens has not yet seen any of this four final schools, in any capacity. That leaves a load of questions to ask while on campus, and avenues to explore. He says that prior to each official visit, he will compose a careful list of questions. Some recruits take on the visits as entertainment and luxury. Everybody loves to be wined and dined, with the red carpet rolled out at every turn. But Owens is dead serious about what he wants from these trips.
"Going into the visits, I want to keep my eyes wide open," he explains. "I'm deciding where I am going to be for the next four years, with a decision that will affect the rest of my life."
"A big part of it is not just the athletic aspect of college life will be like," Owens articulates. "I want to see what life is like as a student. I want to see if the student-athlete experience is anywhere close to that of the regular student. I want to take advantage of all the opportunities in college."
Thoughtful and serious in his approach to the recruiting process, Owens unsurprisingly feels no rush to make his decision. He is intent on taking his visits, and the time to commit will come when it comes.
"Some coaches have asked me when they think I will decide," he describes. "Just when I feel completely comfortable with my decision. That could be a week or it could be a month after my last visit. Hopefully it won't be that long, but I want to be 110 percent sure about my decision."
We will do our best to follow the events and evolving thought process of Josh Owens as he moves through these final weeks of his college recruitment. Stay tuned right here for all the latest with this 6'8" athletic forward as it develops.
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