David Padgett tours the Old Pueblo

With the NCAA rule change allowing recruits to make official campus visis as early as April, the Arizona coaching staff made it clear who its No. 1 target would be. David Padgett, a Top 10 player in the Class of 2003 was given the honor of being the first in his class to receive the Wildcats welcome.

I spoke with David Padgett on Tuesday night and he made it very clear that he was more than impressed with his trip to Tucson this past weekend. He came into town along with new Wildcat signee Chris Dunn and said that he and Chris weren't together much but they got along fine.

"He doesn't talk much," Padgett said of Dunn. "But I got to watch him play a little bit in a pickup game and I was very impressed with him. He's really athletic and he can shoot really well from outside. He just needs to put on some weight."

Like ten or fifteen pounds, I asked?

"Like thirty," he said.

Padgett still has about two or three weeks left on his rehabilitation stint stemming from a dislocated knee cap  he sustained during his school season.

"It's coming along fine," he said. "When it happened, the doctor said it would be 12 weeks before I could play again and this is the ninth week. I figure it'll be two or three more until I can play in a real game, so it was just about right."

While he was here, David was toured around campus by his host, sophomore-to-be Channing Frye. Anyone who knows Channing's personality knows that it's not hard at all to have a good time with the 6-10 center.

"I had a great time with everyone," David said. "I got along well with all the guys, they were all cool. Channing was great. I just had fun."

David flew in on Friday afternoon and had "someone pick me up at the airport" before arriving at campus to meet the coaching staff and the players, as well as Dunn.

"I played for a minute or so," he said, half laughing because he disregarded his doctor's advise. "I know I'm not supposed to play on the knee yet so I just played real quick."

Padgett, who is 6-11 and nearly 250-pounds, went on an unofficial visit to UNLV during the Las Vegas Pump 'n Run Easter Tournament two weeks ago with Devon Evertsen. The trip to Arizona was the first of three consecutive official visits he will take this month. This upcoming Friday morning he will travel to Palo Alto and visit Stanford and head coach Mike Montgomery. The following Friday (April 26th), he and good buddy Omar Wilkes will make a journey to the midwest and Kansas University. He may or may not take his final two official visits, but if he does, expect North Carolina and Louisville to be the final two stops.

One thing that impressed Padgett while he was in Tucson was the new and improved facilities at UofA.

"I really liked the new weight room," he said. "That's about as good as it gets."

Padgett said that it's not about facilities, weight rooms, new arenas or even location that will be the most important factor in determing where he'll play in college. Instead, he said all he wants is to feel comfortable at the school and with the players. If that's the case, he made it sound like Arizona has passed the initial test because of how well he got along with "the guys".

Oh, and one more thing. Both David and Arizona are well aware of the mutual interest involved between the two parties. David said he knows how badly Arizona wants him and said he's heard that he's the Wildcats' No. 1 priority for the class of 2003. With that knowledge, he went in thinking that it would be hard to come away impressed no matter how much Arizona "wined and dined him", so to speak. But one thing absoLUTEly affected him and it is this writer's opinion that it will be the deciding factor when all is said and done.

Lute Olson himself took the time out of his schedule to make it a point of just how much he wants David Padgett to wear an Arizona uniform when he personally drove Padgett to the airport on his final day.

"I've known coach Olson for a few years now," Padgett said. "But when he dropped me off at the airport himself, I was very, very impressed. That meant a lot. I don't think he does that with everyone and I don't think he's done it in a while."

It's obvious that there is a mutual respect between Olson and Padgett and it's also obvious that Arizona will pull out all the stops to land the high school All-American center.

I hate to sound like George W. Bush here, but "make no mistake": David Padgett is priority Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for Arizona in its next recruiting haul. Brian Butch, Ndudi Ebe, Ekene Ibekwe and Harrison Schaen are all nice players but it is Padgett who is the jewel of 2003 in Arizona's eyes.

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