There were a number of schools on the radar for Rayburn, as he took unofficial visits to Marquette, Cal, and Wisconsin. And there were 30 schools who had written to Sam over the summer between his Sophomore and Junior campaigns…including 7 Pac-10 schools. Eight schools came to see him workout in an open gym, including the likes of Gonzaga, Utah, San Diego, New Mexico, Santa Clara, and Cal…with the Bears making two appearances.
Obviously, Cal liked what they saw during those visits, and in turn ... Sam Rayburn liked what he saw in the Bears. On an unofficial visit in mid-November to the Bay Area, Rayburn committed to Cal. "I really loved it down there", he said in an interview with Prepstars. "The coaching staff was great. I loved the facilities and the campus and the area. I talked it over with a lot of people and my family, and I decided once you find the place you want to be, why wait?"
It was that mutual appreciation between Rayburn and Cal that led to the commitment. He possesses many of the qualities that the Cal recruiting staff has been trying to secure; size, scoring, commitment, and upside. "Sam is a 4-year type of player who will enjoy college", said Ralph Rayburn ... the father of the 16 year old. "We are very pleased with our son's decision. We hope he has a fine career and enjoyable experience at Cal."
Rayburn is an excellent student-athlete, and has grown in size considerably since last year. He was approximately 6'7, 210 lbs when he started school last year, and ended the season averaging 16 pts and 9 rebounds during his first year playing varsity. He played on both the freshman & JV squads during his freshman year, and spent the first month of the season rehabbing a broken foot which he suffered playing defensive end in the last game of Sunset's football season. Currently, Sam is 6'11 (he's almost grown an inch since school started), and since Sunset HS has one of the best exercise and weight training gyms in the entire state of Oregon (thanks to a generous donor), Rayburn has filled out to nearly 250 lbs. And that's not all the growing he's in for either, as his orthopedist told him that he could reach 7'1 before he even steps foot in a Berkeley classroom. Rayburn turns 17 in February 2003.
During Rayburn's visit to Northern California, he also had some minor knee surgery performed by a Bay Area-based doctor (coincidentally the same surgeon who handles Oakland Tech HS star Leon Powe). The Rayburn's considered a number of surgeons in the Portland area but felt more comfortable with having the procedure performed here. The surgery went well, and though Rayburn has yet to play this year for his Sunset HS team, his knee is improving. Sam works with a physical therapist and a trainer as part of his weekly routine, and by January first, Sam should be back on the court for his Div. 4 Apollos. Everyone is being very cautious about the injury so that there is little chance of reaggravating it.
Rayburn also plays ball with an AAU team named the Portland Elite Legends. The head coach of the Legends is a former Pac-10 player himself, Troy Berry, who played for OSU and Ralph Miller in the late 80's, and happened to be roomates with the Glove (Gary Payton). Berry has had some wonderful talent on his teams, including two current Kansas Jayhawks, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee.
During the recruiting process, Rayburn wanted to look at both east and west options. Since Ralph Rayburn is from the state of Wisconsin (he graduated from Wisconsin during the time that Ben Braun was a student there), he took Sam back to Wisconsin for a family visit in September. Together, they took a couple days out of their schedule to view both the Wisconsin campus in Madison, as well as Marquette University in Milwaukee. And though both visits were unofficial, just making that trip turned out to be a great decision. Both facilities were more than helpful and friendly, and the Rayburns had a fantastic time learning about the recruiting process at both institutions. As everybody in Milwaukee knows, Tom Crean has done an excellent job in rebuilding the Marquette program, and Wisconsin is just a couple of years removed from a Final Four trip. However, the Rayburns did note that the gym back at Sunset HS compared favorably to both of those collegiate gyms. In addition, one of the schools had an official visit scheduled with another player on the date that the Rayburns were there, so the time spent byu the staff was divided. However, both facilities became a revealing experience, and they helped Sam conclude that he prefered to stay on the West Coast.
During his visit to the Bay Area, Rayburn had an opportunity to watch a Cal practice and meet some of the Cal players and coaches. He was favorably impressed by both the staff and the players, in particular Amit Tamir and Erik Bond, the latter a fellow Pacific Northwesterner. Since learning of David Ellis' commitment to Cal, Rayburn has contacted David and congratulated him via e-mail. Rayburn has also had a chance to meet Leon Powe, and has sent a couple of follow-up e-mails to current Cal players to thank them for their time during his visit.
After returning home and giving his verbal to Cal, Rayburn's varsity coach was asked by nearly a handful of recruiting coordinators about whether Sam's decision to go to UC Berkeley was firm, and if you're a Cal fan, the answer could not have been more definite. His coach said "Sam is not that kind of youngster, and the Rayburns are not that kind of family". Sam simply felt that he fit in the Cal program, both academically and athletically, and his family is 100% behind him.
So let's consider what Sam will bring to Cal: Rayburn is a solid post player who is fundamental on the block. He's already a great target due to his size, and he has the ability to knock down the perimeter shot consistently. Rayburn is also a hard worker, and a preparation fanatic; he's also very excited about being academically challenged in Berkeley. You could certainly label Rayburn as a student of the game, and a person who loves a challenge. He even cited a dissapointment in not being healthy enough to play against Ndudi Ebi (Westbury Christian HS, TX) in Portland's own Les Schwab Invitational Tournament on Dec 18th. He felt the Arizona-bound Ebi was one of the top players he played against this last summer.
Overall, Sam is still getting used to his size (when you grow this fast, it can be a bit awkward), and footspeed is something he'll continue to work on. I did have a chance to ask Ralph Rayburn about his son's famous name as well (Sam Rayburn, 1868-