Some would say that Stanford should stick to California and the West Coast with its recruiting efforts, but the school's admissions standards and application process compel the coaches to travel wherever they can find that rare confluence of elite basketball and academic abilities. It so happened in the 2007 class that the Cardinal crossed the country to sign forward Josh Owens in Exeter, N.H. Stanford is back again in the Northeast for the Class of 2008. This time Trent Johnson is diving into Delaware, where Middletown High School junior Jarrett Mann is lighting up the state.
The Cavaliers are 19-6 and the #2 seed in the state playoffs, tonight facing off against #7 William Penn in the quarterfinals. Tuesday saw Mann score 18 points and a handful of assists in a second-round victory. A few weeks ago he crossed the 1,000-point mark in his high school career in a 14-point win over the state's #1-ranked team. Mann scored 20 points, pulled down 11 boards and dished eight assists.
Though he is just a junior, Mann has played a lot of basketball at a high level for Middletown and stands as a central figure on a team that has several seniors.
"He's kind of the glue - the backbone of this team. He's been a leader for this team since Day One," says Middletown head coach Stephen Wilson. "He has been a model in his dealings in the classroom and out of the classroom. On the court basketball-wise, he's been doing just what he's supposed to do. He has been an emotional leader and a physical leader for the team. He has been a big part of a lot of success this season. Not just his scoring. I'm also talking about defending and passing the basketball. He's a great athlete as well."
Mann at 6'4" has the length to score, rebound and defend like a wing, but he has the handle and on-court IQ of a point guard. He plays a breadth of positions on the floor and could do the same in college: small forward, shooting guard or point guard. With such versatility and talent, he has been asked by his coaches to step up his game in all facets this year for the Cavaliers.
"Clutch free throws - he's been knocking them down. His outside shooting has been coming along," Wilson lists. "His passing of the basketball. On defense, I challenged him. I challenged him to rebound a lot, even when he's tired. He's logged a lot of minutes this year. I haven't been taking him out as much as I wish I had."
Though he is multi-faceted in his game, Mann's scoring remains the number one priority on opponents' scouting reports. In particular, his ability to beat defenders and get to the basket is hard to handle.
"They have to stop his dribble-penetration and stop him from going on the baseline," his coach comments. "He's still taking the baseline anyway, but they mainly design defenses around him. He's seen the box-and-one, triangle-and-two and zones. There hasn't been a team who has played man-to-man against us since maybe December. Everybody plays zone."
As has been a familiar theme for Stanford Basketball this year, there is a priority placed upon knocking down the three-pointer when teams crowd the paint against Mann.
"He has improved on his outside shooting," Wilson says. "We're still working on it. But he makes the shots when they count. The bottom line at the end of the game is that you look up, and he's filled all the stats up. He's averaging 22 points, eight rebounds, six or seven assists per game and two to three steals. He does a little bit of everything."
With so much game from the star junior, the phone has rung a few times in the Middletown High School basketball office this year.
"All day. All day long," Wilson laughs. "Stanford, Virginia, Illinois, Baylor, Marquette, Rutgers, St. Joseph's, Richmond, Xavier, Penn State, Texas, Florida. Just about everybody has called at one time or another."
"I'd have to say that him, Jawan Carter, Eric Boateng and Josh Thornton - those are four kids who were heavily recruited in Delaware," the coach continues. "I think Jarrett probably has gotten the most attention out of all of the kids because of the academics. A lot of the schools that are recruiting him are academic schools as well. His major is going to have something to do with being a doctor."
Mann currently carries a 3.7 GPA, with a course load full of AP classes.
Like many kids, Mann is currently focused on finishing his high school season rather than recruiting. He has tried to make the trip out west to unofficially visit Stanford but run into stumbling blocks each time thus far. Mann did have an opportunity to watch the Cardinal once in person this year, when they played in Charlottesville and handed Virginia their first (and still only) loss in the new John Paul Jones Arena. That win may have paid dividends for the Pac-10 suitor, with Stanford one of Mann's favorites according to his coach.
"Talking to him, he's high on Stanford, Wake Forest, Penn State, Virginia, Florida - and Marquette has just started coming into the picture. He hasn't ruled out anybody, but he really likes Wake Forest and Stanford," Wilson says. "We don't leave any schools unturned. Any school that sends something, we send something back."
"He really likes Stanford and wants to come out there to see how the campus life is, how the students are, how the coaches interact with the players, how the players interact with the coaches on an everyday basis," Wilson adds.
Mann is planning on visiting Stanford after the season, though that is not foremost on his mind today.
"I know he's looking forward to going out there for a visit, but right now he is just trying to win a state championship," Wilson maintains. "We're focusing in on that right now, but after that's done, we're definitely going to take some trips to go some places together. Look at schools, talk to his counselors and see what would be the best fit for him academically as well as for basketball."
"I have sat down with him and his parents," the coach continues. "All of us are involved in his recruiting process, and we try to keep it just amongst people in his circle. He's tried to keep his circle really tight. A lot of people try to tell him a lot of things, and everybody is going to try to get a piece of him because of the success that he has had. So we keep it mainly to his family, myself and his AAU coach. I do a lot of the talking with coaches, along with his father. His mother and father are very heavily involved in his recruiting right now."
And does that circle harbor concerns about Mann traveling across the country for his college experience?
"No, not at all," Wilson answers. "His family is very supportive of him. With Stanford being far, that is a concern, but Stanford University says enough for itself. He has to take a look at that school. He has to consider one of the best Pac-10 schools, and the Pac-10 is going to be one of the best conferences the next two or three years. It might be the best. He definitely has to take a look at that. Wherever he goes, there will be that support factor for him."
Once the Delaware state tournament has concluded, those trips and the difficult college decision before Jarrett Mann will come into greater focus. Stay tuned for much more on the story of this talented and highly recruited guard in the coming weeks and months.
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