Northern wind blows out West

One of Wisconsin's top targets recently made a trip to California to visit two Pac-10 powers

One of the great excitements in following basketball recruiting this time of year is seeing a new face "blow up" in the eyes of recruiting services and college coaches. Top 100 and 200 lists have to be reshuffled, and the recruiting boards in head coaches' offices have to be redrawn. For Stanford fans, who follow a small list of players because of the school's admissions restrictions, the exuberance is compounded when a new prospect explodes onto the scene. Instead of perhaps one four-star recruit at a given position that Stanford could pursue, a new find might double that number.

With two commits in the bag and just a handful of elite prospects remaining for the final three scholarships in the 2005 class, it is big news to see Canadian power forward Ryan Wright emerge onto the scene. After seeing him play at the NBA Players Association Camp in Richmond (Va.) in late June, TheInsiders' Dave Telep launched the 6-foot-9 relative unknown to the No. 55 position in the rising senior class.

Cardinalmaniacs™ should be excited, but they also may wonder about how this public erruption has affected Wright's list of suitors. It is no surprise that more schools have jumped onto this Loyola Catholic standout's bandwagon, but both the recruit and his father say that they will mostly remain loyal to the schools that were there before he dazzled earlier this month at the Nike All-American Camp.

"We're not really adding to our top five list," says father Michael Wright - who named for The Bootleg last month a leading quintet of Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford and Wisconsin. "We are still sticking with who has been with us before."

His 17-year-old son similarly maintains that not much wiggle room will be available to new schools, though there is one notable exception.

"I have a solid list of eight right now, and I am going to stick with that list," Ryan Wright declares. "Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Stanford and Pittsburgh. I might let another school in later, but it's hard to say. Kentucky is the one new school who I would definitely consider if they offer."

The Wildcats are the only school from the above list who have not offered. Though Tubby Smith came onto the scene just this month, it is difficult to gauge what intentions Kentucky has toward Wright. The Cats are certainly willing to recruit Canada for a scholarship athlete, as they showed in signing Bernard Cote in the 2001 class.

One measuring stick for UK's and others' interest might be the Nike All-Canada Camp that was held last week in Toronto. Bigtime events were going on in the United States in Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia and Los Angeles - among others. With NCAA rules only permitting a given school to put three coaches on the road for evaluations at any given time in July, choices and priorities have to be made. Going to a camp with only Canadian kids in attendance is a low priority for most schools, given the dearth of high major kids to scout.

Wright was unquestionably the top prospect at the Nike All-Canada Camp, and a subset of his favorites list came to watch. One source up North reports that Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Stanford and Pitt were in the stands watching the Mississauga (Ont.) product.

If nothing else, that confirms for us the importance that the Cardinal coaching staff has put on Wright. We now believe that the Ontario post prize is as high a target as any big man in the 2005 class.

The next question examines the affinity relationship in the opposite direction: how does the Wright family feel about Stanford? A recent unofficial visit taken by the father and son in late June provided the Mississauga men with their first ever look at The Farm and its surrounding area.

"I thought it was a great trip - very informative," said Michael Wright. "I had never been to the Bay Area before, and it was nice. There was a little bit of a surprise in the way academic support is given versus other schools. You are viewed as more equal at Stanford when you are a student-athlete. That's a good thing in my eyes. We had a tour of the refurbished stadium - that will look nice when it's done. And meeting with the coaches went well. Trent [Johnson] is a really nice guy. He will do good things there."

The younger Wright noted some similar observations, but his focus was more on the players. The athletic power forward spent over an hour playing pickup basketball with a handful of Cardinal players who were on campus. More than anything else, that experience defined his trip.

"I got a good impression because I now know what guys they have and how I could play with them," Ryan Wright said. "I feel very comfortable with them. They're really high on my list."

The Cardinal were not the only benefactor of that West Coast visit, however. The Wrights spent two days prior at Westwood at the UCLA camp. From what both have to say about the SoCal experience, it looks like the Pac-10 rival may be one of the strongest competitors for this recruit 3,000 miles and a border away.

"UCLA was nice as well," Michael said. "They are in a different situation, though. Stanford is a little more rural while UCLA is right there in the city. I can't really compare the two schools. We're not really saying who is better right now."

"The UCLA camp was good," Ryan adds. "I got a sense of the coaching - got to work with the coaches on the floor. I also got to play with some players [UCLA] signed. They showed me around and we talked."

While neither of the Wright men will come forward in comparing the two Pac-10 powers, they both agree that similarities of location put the California schools high on their minds.

"The two schools are way high because they are the nicest campuses I've seen so far," Ryan proclaimed.

"The California weather is an advantage. Both campuses are nice," Michael said.

Ryan Wright has also visited the two Michigan schools, which brings the unofficial visit total thus far to four. He will travel to Las Vegas (Nev.) later this week to play with the Ontario Cyclones. Afterward he will return north of the border and play with his provincial team in the Junior National Championships. That will take him deep into August, and only then will the highly rated forward be able to resume his visits and recruiting ruminations.

"I've got to visit all those places on my list before I do anything," Ryan said. "After that, I will go through all the things with the campus and players that I saw. My decision will be mostly based on the players. I want to play my first two years in college."

The final summary question: what chance does Stanford have when Wright's school list is slashed at the end of the summer?

"They have a really good chance. They have some forwards who graduated, which makes a great opportunity for me," Ryan said.

"Stanford will be there at the end of the summer," his father forecasts.

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