GLENS FALLS — In front of a standing-room-only crowd inside the Adirondack Room at the Queensbury Hotel, Glens Falls senior Joseph Girard III sat on stage with his mother Arleen and father, Joe Jr., to announce his verbal commitment to Syracuse.
Teammates, coaches, family, community members and anyone with even the slightest connection to Girard gathered to witness the nationally coveted recruit pick a university.
It was an event unlike anything Glens Falls has seen before.
“All of social media,” Girard said when asked who he is excited to share this with. “I’ve gotten thousands of comments from (fans) of each and every school. So when they find out, I think that will be pretty cool.”
Sure there was Jimmer Fredette before him, but Fredette was not nationally recruited by the top Division I teams, nor do their high school statistics or accomplishments really compare.
In Girard’s junior year, he put up numbers most high school students don’t sniff in a career. His 1,149 points, or 50 points per game average, propelled him from three-star prospect to coveted national recruit, fielding offers from legendary college coaches.
All those points, including 179 3-pointers, resulted in Girard leading Glens Falls to a 20-3 record before falling to Schalmont by five points in a sectional semifinal.
Then came awards season.
In no particular order, Girard was named the Gatorade New York Boys Basketball Player of the Year, a rare honor for a junior. He earned MVP honors in the Foothills, for the third time, and was a finalist for MaxPreps’ National Player of the Year.
Throw in a USA Basketball Men’s U18 team tryout and it’s obvious why Girard’s scheduled verbal commitment garnered so much attention.
If you do not think Girard, or JG3 as he often goes by, is becoming a nationally known name then you are ignoring history.
Not only did Girard shatter his school and Section II’s scoring records en route to becoming New York State’s all-time leading scorer, but he is the only boys basketball player to ever eclipse 3,000 points.
If that isn’t enough proof, visit his Instagram page and shoot him a follow, joining the more than 23,500 people that already do.
In comparison, New York Yankees second basemen Neil Walker has fewer than 10,000 followers. Girard has more followers than congressman Brian Higgins of Buffalo, congressman John Katko of Syracuse and congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, who represents the Glens Falls area, combined.
Girard’s following was louder than ever Sunday night.
It would take a few hours to read what fans from Syracuse, Duke, Michigan, Penn State, Boston College, and Notre Dame are saying about his decision.
Like anything on social media, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.
Girard said he reads the majority of his mentions but never replies. He learned that from his father.
“One thing that was cool was when I had 9,000 followers it read like nine, zero, zero, zero,” Girard said. “But when you get to 10,000, it just says 10k. So me and Isaiah (Stewart), had a competition to get there first. He beat me, but he cheated.”
As of Sunday night, Girard has about 7,000 more Instagram followers than Stewart, his City Rocks teammate and the fourth-ranked player in the nation.
Twitter turned in to the place to be for those who could not see the announcement live. His commitment video already has more than 35,000 combined views.
Living in this social media era, one’s Instagram following correlates with their national popularity. Recently, Girard earned a Blue Checkmark on Instagram, meaning his account is verified.
There was a time when Girard did not have a massive following, long before Sunday’s announcement and the pressures of other’s expectations.
Girard’s first post came on Dec. 7, 2014, prior to his varsity basketball debut.
“I was so excited, being an eighth-grader playing on varsity,” Girard said. “At the same time, I knew I was going to start that game so there were a lot of emotions flowing.”
Girard hit the game-winner that night, a moment he said he’ll remember forever. Much like verbally committing to Syracuse, in a room filled with Orange fans, this is a moment he’ll remember for life.
“He was so eager and happy just to don that Glens Falls jersey,” Joe Girard Jr. said. “He was so excited and honored to do that as an eighth grader. He was 13 years old and starting on varsity. Looking back, it has come full circle to see how hard we have worked for him to get here. And he is just as excited now as he was back then.”
Follow Ellis L. Williams on Twitter @BookofEllis