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September 6, 2011Some kids whose fathers or older brothers did big things at a school like to blaze their own trail. Others are fine with the expectations that come with having that name on the back of a particular jersey.
Brunswick's B.J. Stith says it was always his dream to play for Virginia and now, that's exactly what he'll do.
"I grew up wanting that pretty bad," the 2014 combo guard told CavsCorner on Monday, two days after he committed to Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers. "It's always been my dream for as long as I can remember."
Stith of course has a father whose name invokes quite a response from UVa fans. Bryant Stith is Virginia's all-time leading scorer and one of the greatest players to ever wear the orange and blue.
Bryant now coaches both of his sons B.J. and Brandan Stith at Brunswick High School in Lawrenceville, where in the 1980s he led the Bulldogs to a pair of state championships as a player. The Bulldogs have gone to five straight state championship game and won one with Bryant the coach.
The elder Stith say he couldn't be prouder of his youngest son.
"B.J. is a kid who just has a work ethic that will surprise you," he said. "And when he decides to do something, it gets done. He wanted to play as a freshman for me at Brunswick and he ran the point. But he's a combo guard who we always put on the opposing team's best offensive player."
As Bryant tells it, B.J. gave up football, much like his older brother did, because he wanted to focus on his hoops game. After playing in summer leagues, Bryant said B.J. got to the point where college attention started flooding in.
"He hasn't even scratched the surface of his full potential yet and I think people are so excited because of the kind of player and person he is," Bryant said. "I always tell him that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement and he really has taken that to heart."
A heady player with a high basketball IQ who has a good shooting stroke and a 6-foot-8 wingspan, B.J. is a guard who will spend as much time preparing for college ball as perhaps any recruit Bennett has had. He plans to work on his outside shot and his strength so that he'll be ready to drive the lane and draw contact in the ACC.
"It's a long time between now and then," B.J. said of finally making it to UVa after he graduates in 2014. "But I grew up wanting this. I grew up wanting to be just like my dad, to be the kind of player he was and the kind of person he is. I love Virginia and I honestly didn't see any point in waiting."
Of course, his son's commitment to the Wahoos wouldn't have happened so early if Bryant had had his way.
"I actually tried to talk him out of it," he said with a laugh, "but I honestly wanted to make sure he was making this commitment for him and for the right reasons. I challenged him but it was clear, this is what he wanted and as his coach, his father, and someone who loves Virginia as much as anyone, I couldn't be more excited."
"Coach Bennett is a great coach, it's not too far from home, and I know so much about it," B.J. said when asked why he chose UVa. "Timing wise, I really felt like if this is where I know I want to be, why wait? When I first told my dad, at first he was excited but then he tried to talk me down some. He just was looking out for me. But this is it. I'm done."
Considering the trend recently in some parts of college basketball has been for players to graduate early from high school and get to their destination sooner, Bryant Stith said despite B.J.'s early commitment, he doesn't expect that to happen.
"B.J. has goals for himself that wouldn't be possible if he were to graduate early," Bryant said. "He wants to be valedictorian and right now, he's number 1 in his class. He wants to win multiple state titles before he's done being a Bulldog."
He went on to add that as a former player, Bryant is excited about the future of UVa basketball.
"I think the biggest thing is, even before B.J.'s decision, the caliber of young men that Coach Bennett and his incredible staff at Virginia are brining in really gets your attention," Bryant said. "You're talking about guys you're never going to have to worry about making bad decisions or getting into any kind of trouble, players that are very coachable and are high-character kids. The guys he's bringing in are players that are used to winning the right way and aren't afraid of hard work. That's the formula for success at the University."
The prospect of adding one Stith makes UVa fans swoon. But could the Cavaliers perhaps also be the ultimate destination for the older of Bryant's two sons?
"I think that's definitely a possibility but the situations are very different," the former UVa great said. "With B.J., the timing and the scholarship situation is perfect. But with Brandan, the University has offered him as a player in the 2014 class, meaning he would need to take a post-grad year and that makes things more complex."
Taking the time to first figure out if UVa is right for him as well as the time to research and decide if spending that year at a military school for post grad is partly why Bryant said there's no rush or pressure for Brandan, a 6-foot-6, 175-pound forward, to make any decision.
"He plays so much like me," Bryant said, "but he's also looking at deciding first, do I want to look at playing as a member of the 2013 class or do I feel comfortable going and doing that post-grad year and playing in 2014? Right now, he has 10 offers to play as part of the 2013 class.
"There's no doubt that the extra year would only help him in terms of his physical maturation and his basketball skills and I don't see any negative if that is what he ultimately chooses. But it's his decision and I want to do everything I can as both a father and a coach to make sure Brandan's decision is Brandan's decision," Bryant Stith said.
"Right now, we're excited about Brandan's recruitment and excited about B.J.'s decision," he added. "It's an awesome feeling and we're overjoyed that one of our sons has made that commitment to be a par of the UVa basketball family."