College athletic future bright for Valley recruits
Tyler Ferguson has made the call, Grant Verhoeven is close and Robert Upshaw is in no rush in a college recruiting chase that the Central Section has rarely seen.
Clovis West High’s Ferguson, a pitcher/first baseman and probably the section’s most heavily recruited baseball player since Jason Donald chose Arizona out of Buchanan in 2003, settled on Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday.
Central Valley Christian’s Verhoeven, a 6-foot-9 basketball center and already a two-time Bee All-Star, has narrowed his options to Stanford, Cal and Saint Mary’s.
And that means Fresno State — where his father, Pete, starred under coach Boyd Grant before playing in the NBA — is out of the equation.
The father, pointing to a Bulldogs program in coaching transition with Rodney Terry replacing Steve Cleveland, said: “Timing is everything, and there are just too many unknowns at Fresno State right now. We let them know right away, ‘Thank you, but no thank you.’ “
Memorial’s Upshaw, a 7-foot center who sat out last season because of transfer rules after coming from Edison, has established a short list of Fresno State, Louisville, Kansas State and Georgetown.
For Ferguson, Vanderbilt’s combination of medical and baseball programs won over a 6-foot-4, 215-pound student-athlete with a 4.17 grade-point average and aspirations to be a surgeon.
He also could have pursued his medical interests at Stanford, which he visited last weekend.
“It was really hard turning Stanford down,” Ferguson said. “I always hoped I’d have a chance to play there, but I think Vanderbilt’s a better place for me. Something about it felt like home.”
The Commodores went 54-12 last season while making their first College World Series appearance. They will open their 2012 season Feb. 17-19 at Stanford.
Last spring, Ferguson hit .350 and went 8-2 with a 2.13 ERA as a pitcher.
Recruited primarily as a pitcher, he was at his best against the Golden Eagles’ best competition. He beat state-ranked Chatsworth 3-1 on a three-hitter, 13 strikeouts and two-run single; went 2 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs against nationally ranked St. Francis-Mountain View; and, in his only start against eventual nationally No. 1-ranked Buchanan, gave up one run and four hits, striking out nine in eight innings of a 4-1, 10-inning win over the Bears.
Verhoeven also visited Stanford last weekend and, along with Ferguson, attended the Cardinals’ 48-7 Pac-12 Conference rout of Colorado.
Afterward, he spoke with Andrew Luck following a 370-yard, three-touchdown performance by the nation’s premier quarterback.
Pete Verhoeven says the ball’s in his son’s court: “It’s his call and he’s got to live with it; I’m not going to make that decision. … He can’t go wrong with any of the three.”
The father said his son’s college options have been much greater than what he experienced out of Hanford in the late ’70s because of his son’s academic achievements (4.17 GPA) — which also attracted the likes of Cornell and Harvard of the Ivy League.
On the court last season, Verhoeven produced the best all-around numbers in the section: 22.8 points, state third-best 16.9 rebounds, 4.9 blocks, 2.1 steals and 1.3 assists for a 29-4 team that reached the Southern California Regional semifinals.
Pete Verhoeven said Fresno State’s Terry pursued his son aggressively, and that the three had a good talk together.
However: “It’s his first job and you don’t know who he’s going to bring in,” Pete Verhoeven said. “That was a tough one.”
The father said his son expects to make his decision by Nov. 7, the first day of practice.
Upshaw said he, too, could make the call by then.
But, then again, the nation’s 41st-best prospect according to Scout.com may wait until the spring: “Anything’s possible. I’m not locking myself into anything.”
By Andy Boogaard