Please excuse the painfully ironic Kansan metaphor, but a veritable tornado has torn through Stanford basketball recruiting in the past 36 hours. In scarcely more than a day, Stanford's top two recruits for its last two scholarships cancelled highly anticipated events. David Padgett was set to bring Mike Montgomery into his Reno home for the final in-home visit of his recruitment; Omar Wilkes was set to visit the Farm this coming weekend for his final official visit. When you consider that these two best buddies both cancelled Stanford at almost the same time, it is all too easy to conjure up theories.
e.g. Both Omar and David were denied by Stanford admissions... or one was denied and talked with the other about heading elsewhere.
But Pete Padgett, David's father and high school coach, says there was no such collusion or combined decision. "I think it's a total coincidence," said the elder Padgett of the timing.
In fact, though the two senior hoopsters are good friends, they do not talk as often as you might think. Omar says that the last time he talked with David was early last week, at which time both of them were going ahead with their Stanford plans. Moreover, Omar was surprised when I mentioned the Padgett cancellation to him. That was the first of that news he had heard.
To address the next rumor or speculation, I will say right now that neither recruit has been denied by Stanford's admissions office. That speculation is not unreasonable, considering past cancellations. Last summer, Bernard Cote (now an incoming freshman at Kentucky) cancelled his official visit to Stanford just a few days before; this summer Sean Phaler has publicly acknowledged his admissions shortfall and cancelled his scheduled visit to Stanford, set for October. But the facts here are that Wilkes has not even filled out his Stanford application, while Padgett is still awaiting his admissions decision upon his application.
That means we are looking at two different stories on what happened with these recruits.
With Padgett, the story is one that has been building. He has had his application in to Stanford, and it has been public knowledge that he has been waiting for a response. Understanding what happens inside the black box of Old Union is tantamount to stacking grains of sand on top of each other, but Pete Padgett offered some insight.
"It might have been another month David would have had to hang in there for a decision," Pete said of the wait for a final admissions ruling, "and David just feels right now like he needs to get this done. He feels like it's time, and he wants to have a senior year where he can focus on academics, athletics and a social life."
Granted that admissions decisions can take a range of times, but the time of which Pete Padgett speaks is extraordinary, especially when you add the last couple/few weeks the application has already been in. It would seem that Stanford's admissions office is waiting for datum or some additional input to render a final answer, and the timeframe necessary for that is just too much for the Padgett family right now. They have all been working at this recruiting process for two years now, and they are understandably at a point where they just want to be done.
You might think, by the way, that the Padgetts might resent this whole admissions routine, but Pete Padgett offered commentary quite to the contrary. "Stanford sets itself apart with how it scrutinizes applicants," he said, "and we really respect that unique approach to these kids."
Pete Padgett suggests that David may have a final decision in the next two to three weeks, though it could conceivably come even sooner. With Stanford now out of the picture, I have a difficult time picking a winner. I think the appeal and fit are greatest at Kansas, though distance is a real issue with this tight family...
Omar Wilkes is another story altogether. He has had no concerns or time dimension relative to admissions, given that he never even filled out his application. This was a growing concern for Stanford, given that Omar had continued to put off working on his application throughout the entire summer, and it finally came home to roost.
"I was figuring that with the schools I came down to, and all they offered, that I could not do it at this time," said Wilkes of the Stanford application.
And this is the puzzling part. Omar is exactly the type of kid whom I would expect to approach a Stanford application with diligence and vigor. He once told me that he recognized that Stanford was "too good an opportunity to not fill out the application." But when he did not have the application done in September, after starting back in May, something does not add up. I think in the end Omar just flat-out never wanted to fill out the Stanford application, and when he realized that the application was absolutely positively due in order to get processed in time for his 9/28 official visit, he had to tell the Stanford staff that it was never going to be filled out. If Stanford's visit had been set in August or in October, that would have dictated when this news came to the basketball office.
So what explanations does Omar offer up for this mystery?
"On paper, Stanford and I have been a perfect match," the Loyola senior said, "and as much as I loved the combination of academics and athletics, which can't be matched anywhere else in the country, I just didn't feel the spark. It was just a gut feeling."
Later, Wilkes mentioned some smaller reasons running around in his head, when he mentioned the style of play of the various schools. He offered up that he might prefer a more up-tempo style of play than what he perceives at Stanford. Hmm. It is too hard to tell if that was an after-thought for the guard, or if it might have been core to his thinking. It is something for us to chew on, regardless.
But alas, there is still business in the present for Stanford's recruiting. There are ostensibly two more scholarships to fill, and the two leading candidates for them are gone. Moving on, I would imagine four leading names to watch are Ross Neltner, Josh Boone, Fred Washington and Liam Hughes. I watched Neltner, Washington and Hughes all multiple times this summer and will have reports and updates on them soon. I already hit the phone and reached Neltner Monday night for his latest, which is coming next...
As an aside, I think it is open for discussion whether Stanford basketball should use all three scholarships in this class, or whether one should be held for the 2004 class. It is far too difficult to look ahead to that class and to know how many options there will be, largely because we know so little about grades right now on these kids. Indeed, their academic profiles will be largely determined by their junior year grades and SAT or ACT scores yet to come in the next eight months. But I think it might be a gamble worth considering, given an early look at the 2004 landscape relative to the remaining 2003 options.
Also consider the unusual number of dual-sport stars that are on the board with football today. Evan Moore is on the cusp of committing, which would add a solid small forward to the class. Jai Miller is someone in pretty good shape for Stanford today, who could be an exciting guard complement to Tim Morris, though his decision timeframe is likely several months out. Then you throw in a Mark Bradford or a John Carlson. It is a very tough game to handicap these recruiting races today, as well forecasting how much these football players could contribute on the hardwood. But if you are Mike Montgomery, you have to be thinking about this and figuring it into the equation.