You would expect something crazy.
Sorry, this story's more normal than any other.
Don’t be confused by the recruitment that no one heard about — an incredible rarity in college basketball.
Truth is, you might as well embrace it, because Johnnie Vassar’s recruitment went back to the very basics: relationships, family, and the elusive perfect fit.
The 2014 three-star prospect from Jserra Catholic HS (Calif.) visited Northwestern campus on Friday with his mother, and that culminated in a decision whose implications will reverberate throughout the NU sports community.
He committed. Out of nowhere was number five — another monumental win for Northwestern recruiting.
“The visit went perfect,” Vassar told PurpleWildcats.com on Sunday. “I thought it was the best spot for me.”
This all began in Philadelphia. During the July evaluation period, coaches flock to watch top prospects and commitments in hopes of watching them play while showing their interest.
The NU staff – of course – went to watch Vic Law compete in the Reebok Breakout Classic in Philly. There, they saw his point guard of the camp and of the future.
It was Vassar, the self-described “explosive” prospect. The NU staff quickly made contact with Vassar and the coaches – especially Armon Gates – embarked on a serious recruitment.
Vassar talked about the importance of them building relationships with him, then added: “I felt like I could learn a lot from them, with most of them playing at the highest level.”
So from California, he learned more about Northwestern basketball — certainly a long-term project. The Wildcats team has shown its current lack of talent, let’s just say, making this 2014 recruiting class all the more important for Collins’ future in Evanston.
Vassar called his time at Jserra Catholic a “great experience" to this point. He cited the strong academic support – which will help prepare him for Northwestern — and the player development style of Jserra coach Joedy Gardner.
“He’s helped me to improve a lot in all aspects of the game and doing what a point guard should do,” Vassar said.
This isn’t some sweet story of Chicago; his commitment has very little to do with Collins establishing a local pipeline. The head coach found a player he wanted in Philly, recruited him from 2,000 miles away and closed during the ideal visit. There was, however, a special perk.
“It wasn’t a major deciding factor,” Vassar said of playing close to home. “It was one that I thought about. My [91-year-old] great grandma is out here and loves basketball.” She’s mobile, he said, and will be able to watch him contribute immediately.
And, oh, he will. Northwestern wanted an explosive point guard. The coaching staff was careful not to let anyone onto their long trail. It ended in another massive recruiting victory for Collins, as well as for Vassar, who could slide into the starter’s role for all four years.
He’ll join an outstanding recruiting class that (to editorialize) would likely beat NU’s current starting lineup. Vassar, Law, Bryant McIntosh, Scott Lindsey and Gavin Skelly represent new hope for Northwestern basketball.
“I feel like with their recruits, along with myself, we can have something really special,” Vassar said.
And we’ll see that one coming.