Two down, two to go

Just a few weeks ago many Wildcat fans were in doom and gloom mode when it came to basketball recruiting. After a disappointing end to the season with the first round loss in the NCAA Tournament, many wondered if Arizona could build a solid 2008 recruiting class. If the last five days are any indication, things are going just fine.

Although he said it could stretch out until July, Phoenix area wing Brendan Lavender pulled the trigger and committed to Arizona on Friday.

"Everything felt so right," Lavender said. "Arizona has a lot of great things going for it."

Lavender is the second commit of the 2008 class, joining power forward Emmanuel Negedu.

Lavender, a wing from Mesa Mountain View, is somewhat of a fast riser in the class. He had a breakout performance at the Las Vegas Easter Classic. Arizona offered after the event, as did several other big time programs.

The 6-4 guard has won back-to-back state championships at Mountain View, but has always been sort of a role player. Although he's tremendously talented, he was willing to give up some of the scoring load to older players, including Cal bound Harper Kamp. The fact that the Wildcats recognized his potential early on was a definite feather in their cap.

"I am happy that they saw that potential in me," Lavender said. "It means a lot."

Lavender is ready to take a bigger role on his high school team, as well as his AAU team. He was the go-to guy at the Easter Classic, which is what really turned some heads. Although he gave back some of the scoring load when Isaiah Thomas joined the Magic for the Kingwood Classic, the impression was already made. "I am going to show a lot more leadership," Lavender said of his goals for next season and the summer. "I want to have a lot more aggressiveness. It's going to be a really good year."

He becomes the third Arizonan to commit to the program in two years. He joins Jerryd Bayless and Zane Johnson, both of whom are part of the 2007 class that will enroll next fall. As an Arizonan committed to the Wildcats, Lavender is well aware that he'll have a target on his back. "I like it," Lavender said of the attention. "I don't feel a lot of pressure right now, but that could change."

Lavender feels a sense of pride about continuing the proud in-state tradition of top talent playing for the Wildcats.

"We have some really good basketball players in Arizona," he said. "It is no longer a flash in the pan. There is pretty good talent in-state now."

Lavender knows Bayless, in fact his Mountain View team beat Bayless' St. Mary's team in the state finals. He did admit that he does not know Johnson real well, but that he was going to change that real soon.

As the second player committed in the class, Lavender knows that he will have some say in how the rest of the class shapes up. He said he'd be pushing the Cats at various summer events to guys he knows the team has an interest in.

Right now he is best suited to play on the wing, but Lavender is confident in his ability to play all three back court positions.

"I can play the one, the two or the three," Lavender said. "I have to work a little on my ball handling ability if I want to play a lot at point guard."

Whatever position Lavender wants to play, he knows he cannot rest on his laurel.

"I need to work on everything," Lavender said. "Defense, offense, everything. I want to get as good as I can before I get there."

Not only was it an exciting day for Brendan, but his entire family. All through the process he has admitted that his family liked the idea of him staying close to home.

"They are really excited," Lavender said. "It is a great day for all of us."


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