Recruiting well while you’re on the hot seat shouldn’t be as easy as Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins is making it look. On Wednesday, the Cardinal got a verbal commitment from Dorian Pickens, a 6’5″ shooting guard with scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State and several other power conference schools. Pickens is the fourth top-100 player in the class of 2014 to commit to the Cardinal since early September, joining four-star point guard Robert Cartwright and four-star power forwards Michael Humphrey and Reid Travis. The most impressive name in that group is Travis, who spurned offers from Arizona, Duke, Georgetown, UCLA and others before pledging to the Cardinal. Stanford’s 2014 recruiting class now ranks 14th in the country, according to Scout.com. With four good players arriving next year, the Cardinal will be well-equipped to restock its lineup with talent and athleticism and remain competitive in the Pac-12 after veterans such as junior Chasson Randle and seniors Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell and Aaron Bright graduate.
The most interesting part about this recruiting surge is that Dawkins, now in his sixth season in Palo Alto, might not even be around campus at this time next year. In March, first-year athletic director Bernard Muir essentially said Dawkins needed to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament this season in order to keep his job. “There’s a clear expectation that we can do that here,” Muir said. So if the Cardinal doesn’t end the school’s five-year NCAA Tournament drought in March, those recruits that gave their verbal commitments to Dawkins could wind up playing for a different coach. Why, then, would these talented high schoolers – players that had good scholarship offers from other schools – pick Stanford? Maybe they’re confident Stanford will reach the NCAA Tournament this season, that Dawkins has Cardinal basketball on the cusp of a breakthrough, that Stanford hoops is just an evolutionary step or two behind Stanford football. Or maybe they don’t care whether Dawkins is their coach, as long as they get to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country, located on one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.