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February 16, 2012
Aztecs land their No. 1 target, Winston Shepard
San Diego State's already-monstrous 2012 class just got bigger.
A whole 6-foot-9, 200-pound, four-star, No. 1-SDSU-recruit, premier guard bigger.
After months and months of going after the No. 40-ranked recruit in the entire nation, Winston Shepard finally gave in, picked up the phone on Thursday morning, dialed SDSU's number and committed on the spot, a source close to the situation told AztecSportsReport.com.
Despite saying earlier this month he would wait to take his last three official visits before making the decision, Shepard visited the Aztecs the first weekend of February, liked what he saw so much, he decided there was no need for the extra visits. Even though schools such as Kansas, UConn and St. John's were making a strong late push, Shepard was going to be an Aztec, and that was that.
There were plenty of huge SDSU selling points for the big, lanky, athletic guard. First and foremost, Shepard has always been a fan of head coach Steve Fisher. He likes the up-tempo style Fisher plays with, and he loves what he's done with highly-skilled players like Shepard in the past (most notably Kawhi Leonard and Jalen Rose).
Then, of course, The Show and Viejas Arena didn't hurt. Fans dressed as shepherds, creative signs with "Winston" puns, fake Shepard Aztec jerseys and plenty of chants made the coveted recruit feel at home.
"It just makes me feel good inside and makes me feel wanted," Shepard said when he was at Viejas Arena earlier this month.
But perhaps the biggest drawing point of the whole recruiting process was assistant coach Tony Bland. Since Bland took over the job from the departed Justin Hutson in the summer, Shepard has been the Aztecs' No. 1 target.
The new assistant coach followed the recruit and chatted with the recruit as much as he was allowed to, and even at one point attended Shepard's Findlay Prep game in Las Vegas in the morning, then flew back to San Diego the same day to coach SDSU versus Air Force.
And now that he's locked up and is a solid verbal, Bland and SDSU can finally relax. The Aztecs are all out of 2012 scholarships, and have assembled the best class Fisher has had since he hauled in the famous Fab Five at Michigan.
With transfers J.J. O'Brien, Dwayne Polee and James Johnson, as well as three-star recruits Matt Shrigley and Skylar Spencer, and now coveted recruit Shepard in the mix, SDSU is set to bring in its deepest and best class in school history.
Now the only thing the Aztecs have to worry about is how long they'll keep it in tact. Shepard has stated many times the NBA is his goal. And as the No. 40 recruit in the nation, and the highest-rated player to ever commit to the Aztecs straight out of high school, there's no doubt he could reach that lofty ceiling in a matter of months - just as Leonard did coming out as the No. 48 recruit in the nation.
And as a projected point guard in Fisher's system, scouts are already drooling at the prospect.
But for now, SDSU is just happy to have him on its expected 2012 roster, and will take him and the rest of the big class for as long as it can.
For more on Shepard's commitment, stay tuned to AztecSportsReport.com this week!