In an emotional ceremony Friday at his school, senior guard/forward Johnathan Stove from Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge announced his commitment to sign with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
Stove, a two-time all-state selection, also considered Southern, New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana. He is the No. 3 prospect in NOLA.com's Super 16 Class of 2014 rankings, behind only Brother Martin's Jordan Cornish (Tennessee) and Helen Cox's Dominic Magee (Memphis).
"I really liked all the schools, but there was just something about the city of Lafayette," Stove told the Cajun Redzone on Friday. "I really love Lafayette. Once I got around the players and coaches I realized how much I liked it there. There's a lot of passion in the city for the university, and they're really growing in every aspect."
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Stove is the third addition for the Cajuns to their 2014 recruiting class. St. Augustine (La.) forward Bryce Washington and Country Day (La.) center/forward Scott Plaisance signed Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA's early signing period.
Stove made an official visit to campus at the end of October before returning the following weekend for an unofficial when Washington was in town. He spoke with coach Bob Marlin on Friday before the Cajuns played at Arkansas.
"Coach Marlin was pretty excited and said how big it was to now have me, Scott and Bryce," Stove said. "It felt good getting that call from him. I could hear in his voice how excited he was."
Stove, a post for his prep team who played more on the wing in travel ball, made the 11-man Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches all-state team for all classifications as a junior. He averaged 19.8 points as Christian Life Academy advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals.
Last spring Stove led the Nike Team Louisiana Red Storm in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) and shot 36.2 percent from 3-point range in Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League. He is the sixth senior from the team to sign with a Division I school, joining Cornish (Tennessee), Trey Touchet (UTEP), Branden Sheppard (Louisiana Tech) and twins Trevon and Trevin Woods (LIU-Brooklyn).
In July Stove averaged 20 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games at the invitation-only Nike Big Shots All-American Camp in Washington, D.C. He had eight points and seven rebounds in the event's top-20 all-star game.
Bryan Denison, assistant program director and director of recruiting for Nike Team Louisiana, described Stove as a coach's dream due to his character, versatility and willingness to accept coaching.
"I'd let him watch my 12-year-old for the weekend," Denison said. "Johnathan comes from a great family and is physically ready to play Division I basketball. He put up great numbers in the EYBL, plays as hard as he can on both ends of the floor, has better-than-average athleticism and is a pretty good shooter. If he develops a better jump shot he will be a very scary player for ULL."
Stove is expected to play the two and three for the Cajuns and contribute immediately as a lockdown defender on the wing. Eventually, the coaches see Stove being able to bring the ball up the floor.
Denison added that Stove was a strong pickup for the Cajuns, who fought off a late push in the recruiting process by Southern.
"Johnathan is the type of player who will do whatever you ask him to do," Denison said. "He can obviously guard the two and three, but often times for us he'd be guarding a two on the wing and a few plays later be defending a 6-8, 250-pound guy in the post. He is a defensive stopper and approaches basketball like a professional."
Now that Stove has ended his recruitment, he can focus on leading Christian Life Academy to another state title. As a sophomore he helped the Crusaders win the 2012 Class 1A title and was MVP of the championship game.
"Signing is probably going to motivate me even more," Stove said. "I don't need to prove anything to anybody, but I want to prove to myself that I'm one of the best players in the state. As a team captain, I also want to lead this team to another state championship."
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