Hot Pursuit

Make no mistake, the Wildcats want Jerryd Bayless. There can be no other explanation for the attention they gave the 2007 guard prospect last weekend in Las Vegas. Bayless blew up earlier this month at the Nike Camp, but he did not show anything new to the staff that has been in on him since the eighth grade.

Lute Olson was at every game that we saw Bayless play in last week at the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. He also tailed the St. Mary's standout at the Nike Camp. There can be no doubt that the team has made the in-state product a priority for 2007.

There is a good reason, he is the best prospect to come out of the Grand Canyon State since Richard Jefferson, and possibly, since Mike Bibby graduated from Shadow Mountain in 1996.

Olson has not missed on an in-state product he has wanted since Vegas Davis went to Tennessee. In that time he has offered Bibby, Jefferson and Channing Frye and has landed all three of them.

Now Bayless is in his sights.

So far so good for the Wildcats.

"Coach Olson, he's a great guy," Bayless said. "I've been talking to him on the phone a lot lately. I'm trying to develop a relationship with him."

The Cats are doing a stellar job pursuing Bayless, but they are not alone in making a good impression on the 6-3 combo guard.

"Texas, Arizona and North Carolina are my three favorites," Bayless stated. "I have a few other schools I'm still looking at."

Bayless has made unofficials to all three of his favorites and all three have shown him things he loves about each program.

Texas is actually trying to sell Bayless on their recent point guard success. They point to the college careers of T.J. Ford and Daniel Gibson. He has also clicked with their coaching staff.

I like their coaching staff, coach (Rick) Barnes and coach (Rodney)Terry," Bayless explained. "I got to know Daniel Gibson really well. I took an unofficial out there and really liked their campus."

He's seen North Carolina as well. He took a trip to Chapel Hill while competing in the Tournament of Champions last year.

"Carolina speaks for themselves," he added. "The campus and the tradition out there. It's a great campus. I really like everything about them."

The Wildcats have their own set of advantages.

"Their guards, what they do with their guards," Bayless noted as a positive in favor of the Wildcats. "They get them to the league."

Another positive is the two newest staff members. Miles Simon and Reggie Geary can do nothing but help in the recruitment of Bayless.

"I've known them since before they were coaches," Bayless said. "I think it is great. I love them both, they are both great people."

Bayless has been to Tucson numerous times. He has made unofficials during the season and has played at the Arizona team camp on a few occasions. He was also at the Elite Camp and had a blast at the new event.

"It was a lot of fun coming in and playing with all the pros," Bayless said. "I tried to come out and have some fun."

One of those pros was Bibby. Apparently he and members of his Team Dime posse tried to persuade Bayless into following the Sacrament Kings' standout in moving two hours to the south for his college career.

They aren't the only ones putting the heat on Bayless to stay close to Phoenix. Being an in-state product, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of people who would like to see Bayless play close to home.

"There's pressure from different people around, but it will come down to me," he explained.

Another draw of the Elite Camp was the chance to continue the personal rivalry with Brandon Jennings. Jennings, a top 2008 prospect, and Bayless went at it the week before at the NBPA Camp. Jennings got the best of Bayless at that camp, but things were even in Tucson. Despite the rivalry, the two get along.

"I knew my friend Brandon Jennings was going to be there so I had to come out and have fun playing with him," Bayless said. "We go at it when we play but off the court we're real good friends."

Naturally the thought of those two playing side by side has crossed the minds of Wildcat fans. With Bayless being a terrific scorer, it is not hard to imagine him playing next to the pass-first Bayless.

While not mentioning Arizona specifically, Bayless did note the two have had conversations about playing together in college.

"I know I can play with Brandon," said Bayless. "We can both switch out at the point. He's a great point guard. He can get everyone involved. I can go in and play a little two guard, I don't know if he can do all of that. I can play both though." As of now you should not expect a quick decision. Although he has visited each school, he is not in a rush to decide things.

"I'm probably going to wait another year or so," he stated.

Despite saying that a decision is not forthcoming, the Wildcats are still pursuing Bayless with full vigor.

"They are working me pretty hard right now," Bayless said of the Wildcats. "Them and Texas."

E-mail Brad at bradallis@msn.com


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