On Sunday morning, while his son B.J. was still asleep, Bryant Stith hustled with his wife to the mall, then over to the University of Virginia bookstore. Stith wanted to surprise B.J. with some brand new Cavalier gear.
The UVa basketball legend was one proud papa.
On Saturday, B.J. — a 6-foot-4 combo guard who plays for his father at Brunswick High in Lawrenceville — verbally committed to Virginia.
Stith, who helped lead Brunswick to a state title last year, says earning a scholarship offer to UVa is the culmination of a lifelong dream.
“Ever since I was a kid, I loved UVa,” Stith said. “I always came to basketball and football games with my dad and always wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“Coach Bennett is doing an awesome job with his recruiting. It seems like he has a lot of good players coming in, so I’m excited to get there. I can’t wait.”
Stith, who will be part of Virginia’s 2014 recruiting class, gave Bennett his verbal commitment just before the Cavaliers’ big season-opening football win over William & Mary.
Having just started his sophomore year at Brunswick, he arrived at his decision earlier than most. The majority of players give verbal commitments during their junior or even senior years.
“He just felt very confident in his decision,” Bryant Stith said. “He had mapped out his goals and what he wanted to accomplish and Virginia fit into his goals and his future plans.
“He’s the type of kid who is very direct about what he wants and he knows where he wants to go in life. That’s why he made his decision so early.”
The younger Stith wanted to avoid what he referred to as the “headache” that comes with being heavily recruited. He says he never seriously considered committing to any other school.
“It was Virginia from the get-go,” he said, “but at the end I started getting recruited heavily by Ohio State and Virginia Tech. But it was Virginia from the beginning.”
Bryant Stith, who has coached Brunswick to the last five state championship games, said he felt extremely comfortable with the UVa coaching staff throughout the recruiting process.
“I think Coach Bennett is wonderful for the program,” he said. “I think that he has the team headed in the right direction. I think that he has started to put the cornerstones in place for the program and I think the future for Virginia basketball is very bright.”
Now the question is whether Stith’s other son, Brandan, a 6-foot-6 junior forward at Brunswick, will follow B.J. to UVa.
“He loves Virginia, but what’s a perfect fit for one of my sons may not necessarily be a perfect fit for the other,” Bryant Stith said.
Stith said a prep year is possible for Brandan. That would give his game more time to develop and shift him into the 2014 class, possibly giving him a chance to come to Virginia with B.J.
“There’s a lot of decisions we would have to factor in, in order to have Brandan feel comfortable attending the University,” Stith said. “But he’s working really hard and leaving his options open. His recruiting is going very well.
“You can look forward to Brandan probably making his decision within the next year or so.”
Stith says his sons have very different styles.
“Brandan comes from my mold,” Stith said. “He’s very rugged. He takes no prisoners and he plays very aggressive around the basket.
“B.J. is different than both of us because he is more skilled. He has more ball skills, is more perimeter-oriented, as opposed to Brandan and myself who attacked the basket and played good tough hard-nosed defense and get in there and mix it up with the big boys.”
B.J. Stith thinks there’s a chance that his big brother winds up in Charlottesville with him.
“I sure hope so,” he said, “but what’s good for me may not be good for Brandan. He likes UVa, but he’s still weighing his options.”
Meanwhile, Stith seemed to think that Virginia was doing well in its recruitment of the 6-foot-5 Devon Hall, a 2014 prospect out of Virginia Beach whom UVa is said to be interested in.
“I talked to Devon [on Saturday],” B.J. said. “He’s a cool guy and a good player. I hope he comes [to Virginia].
“I’ve talked to him about coming down with his AAU team next year and also about him coming to UVa.”
For now, B.J. will simply rejoice in the fact that he’ll be playing in Charlottesville. His dad sure is — as evidenced by Sunday’s shopping spree.
“He’s real excited,” B.J. Stith said. “He’s almost too excited.
“He got lots [of stuff] — shirts, hats, shorts, anything that you can imagine.”