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When talking about their first recruiting cycle at Stanford, head coach Jerod Haase and recruiting coordinator Adam Cohen used the phrase “learning curve.”
There may have been times when that curve felt like trying get a hit off Clayton Kershaw, but when Isaac White and Daejon Davis sent signed letters of intent to Stanford on Wednesday the coaches could take a victory lap with a class rated as the 11th best in the country by Rivals.
Davis (Seattle, Wash.), White (Adelaide Australia), Oscar Da Silva (Munich, Germany) and Kezie Okpala (Anaheim, Calif.) will arrive at Stanford as maybe the most surprising Stanford recruiting class in recent history. Stanford has welcomed talented groups of freshmen before, but there was an added level of difficulty for a staff learning about Stanford’s process at the same time they were recruiting.
“At the end of the day, while there are challenges recruiting to Stanford, there’s a whole lot more positives,” Haase said. “It’s such a powerful brand. It in some ways makes it easier.”
Part of the sales pitch may have been ready-made upon arrival at Stanford, but the 2017 class certainly wasn’t pre-packaged for Haase, Cohen, Jeff Wulbrun, Jesse Pruitt, and the staff. The journey to bring the recruits together started 364 days ago with a mindset that non-stop work would have to be the solution to playing catch-up.
“The amount of miles that coach (Haase) and our whole staff has flown from April 15 of last year to now is insane,” Cohen said. “I have to imagine it won’t be that bad moving forward because now we’re more familiar with it. But the way we like to look at it is, at least on paper, the hard work has paid off and we put together the class the best we could. We’re excited to have them here and it’s up to them once they get here to keep building it.”
Davis was the final, critical, piece to Stanford’s recruiting class.
— Daejon Davis (@DaejonDavis) April 12, 2017
The No. 47 overall player according to Rivals, Davis signed with Washington in November. Cohen explained that Davis was “really close” with former Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar and the other members of the class, which included high school teammate Jaylen Nowell.
When Davis was released from his letter of intent after Romar was fired, Stanford immediately reached out and Davis was open to reconsider leaving Seattle.
“He fits what Stanford is and he knew that, I think, deep down,” Cohen said. “But it’s always hard to beat your hometown school.”
It was a fortunate break for Stanford, and one the Cardinal were in position to benefit from because of the trust Haase built Davis, Cohen said.
Now, instead of having to try to plan to stop Davis on the court, his arrival at Stanford will give the Cardinal a guard capable of doing everything Haase lists in his point guard job description. Simply put, his point guard is “someone who is a facilitator first and certainly has the ability to score.”
"Daejon is an elite athlete and I think can be a high level defender," Haase said. "Offensively ... he’s a very capable shooter and can break down defenses off the bounce. He really has great vision."
Davis and White are able to play point guard, and Haase said they both offer versatility so that down the road he can have three guards on the court. Stanford’s base starting lineup for next season may be “long and lean”, but the Cardinal now have the flexibility to put together groups of five on the court to match a variety of situations.
And while Davis is a significant reason for that being possible, Haase and Cohen cautioned against dismissing White's presence.
— Isaac White (@isaacwhite_13_) April 12, 2017
Stanford heard about White in July and he impressed the coaches on a visit to The Farm -- “He’s very charismatic,” Cohen said. White graduated in December and is currently playing for his club team.
“He is a workaholic,” Cohen said. “He is an elite-level shooter who has a chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong. He is undersized, not the fastest guy or most athletic, but he’s an elite-level competitor. He’s a guy who won’t take no for an answer … he’s a winner. I think he’s a guy fans will love because he gives everything he has.”
And White’s future head coach marveled at the young guard’s prolific shooting numbers. White hit 53.6 percent from three and averaged 20.9 points in a recent national tournament.
“The things he’s doing right now back in Australia are pretty impressive," he said. "I certainly wouldn’t be able to make the number of shots he’s making if you gave me all day and no defense. He’s tough as nails."
In part two Haase and Cohen discuss the unifying characteristics of the incoming freshmen and what Okapla and Da Silva bring to Stanford. Also, Kodye Pugh talks about his redshirt year and his expectations for next season.