"Everything was positive about the trip. I really hadn't planned on doing another unofficial to UCLA until some time in the spring, when I would be visiting my family in L.A. But Kyle [Singler] wanted to go down and see everything, and do an unofficial, so he asked me if I would go down with him. I'm really glad that I did. Just to see the UCLA campus in the dead of winter was interesting. We've had so much rain in Oregon that it was a real contrast in L.A.
"We got off the plane, walked outside, and we just smiled. We had forgotten what that round yellow thing in the sky looked like. I had eaten at the cafeteria on campus on my last visit, and we ate there again. We had this insane buffet for $7. It was great to see Kenny, the UCLA academic advisor again. Kyle got to spend some time talking to Kenny, and walked the campus with both Kenny and [UCLA assistant coach] Kerry [Keating].
"The best part was being in Pauley for a game. That was sick! It was an unbelievable experience. Everybody there showed us so much love. Our friend Tom Lubin, who's a great coach in California e-mailed my friend, commenting on our time at the UCLA game: "Do you ever remember on your best day having something like that happen to you – I sure didn't." Tom's words really put it all in perspective for me, and made me appreciate everybody at UCLA so much more."
Kyle Singler went with you on the visit. What were your impressions of his experience on the visit?
"Kyle had the best time. The first thing I noticed was how Kyle embraced the campus. It was so bright and sunny. It reminded me of that first perfect spring day…when it's suddenly warm, clear, and bright. We came right to UCLA from the airport. We got off on the Sunset Blvd. exit and were on campus in a couple of minutes. Everything was so nice. Kerry Keating was there to greet us, which made Kyle feel at home. To me, it seemed like Kyle was really impressed with the campus. It's so much different than Oregon State or Oregon. Plus there's so much to do in the L.A. area.
"The game was unbelievable. The place was buzzing. Plus they had us sitting next to the women's volleyball team. That was great. I had been on an unofficial visit in November, but I didn't have a chance to watch a game at Pauley…plus it was against Arizona. I've seen UCLA play about seven games on TV this year, but it was so much different in person. Jordan [Farmar] has so many different gears to his game that you don't see on TV. Arron [Afflalo] has that ability to position himself to get his shot off anytime. He kind of reminds me of O.J. Mayo in that way. We had such great seats so we could really key in on UCLA's great offense and insane defense. They are prepared for anything. On my last visit I got to watch the team practice, and meet Luc [Richard Mbah a Moute] and Albert. They are so strong and active. They are such great guys too."
There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of you and Singler going to school together. Do you see your decisions being influenced by what the other guy does? If he chooses school A, does that increase the chances of you choosing school A? And vice versa? Or is it more a case of you'll each make your decisions independently and it'd be nice if you ended up at the same school?
"In a perfect world, Kyle and I want to play together. But there are so many variables. Both of us have to make sure that our styles of play would work at whatever school we both pick. All three schools seem to have an offense that would utilize our skills. If you're not going to move the ball, it's a waste of Kyle's talent…he's just too good at so many things. It would be a crime to have him out there just to jack 3's. I want to go to a school where I get my touches, to create mismatches, to pass out of the post, have teammates who I can help pound the boards with. Kyle and I have played together since the 8th grade and have accomplished so much. The game is always so much more fun for me when I have Kyle on my wing.
"Kyle really liked the UCLA coaches, and knows that he will be a major part of their offense and defense. Both of us now need to get a feel how we will fit in with Duke and North Carolina. Both schools are loaded. North Carolina has Tyler Hansbrough, who is totally insane. I love watching him play. They'll have Brandan Wright, Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson…plus Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Frasor, and so many other great players. Ty texts me all the time. He's all over me about Carolina. Duke will have McRoberts, Paulus, Boateng, Zoubek, Gerald Henderson, and other great talent. These are tough decisions for both of us, that we should take time with, and take seriously. It's an honor to have the three greatest programs in college basketball history asking us to come to their schools."
You've mentioned the Memorial Day tournament as a possible time for you to visit Duke and North Carolina. Is there any chance you'd take an unofficial visit out there prior to that tournament? Is there any chance you'd make a decision without taking a visit to either school?
"I don't think I'll be taking an unofficial to Duke or North Carolina before the Bob Gibbons tournament in May. My Uncle Joe offered to take my brother Collin and I there, but I don't know if I'll have time between the state playoffs, AAU ball, working out, school, studying and finals."
Your father played in the NBA and obviously knows more about the recruiting process than most parents. How much of a role will he play in helping you with your decision? Does he have a preference for a school he'd like you to attend?
"My dad wants me to play where I'm going to be happy. He also wants me to play for a great coach who's approachable, and who will take advantage of my skills. Out of all of his coaches, Jim Harrick really stood out for him. And that was way back in high school. He wants me to be able to call my coach or walk into his office if I have a problem or a concern. That's what I want also. I have that right now with Mark Shoff, my high school coach, and with Chris Dudley.
"My dad told me that his recruiting experience was so much different than mine. Recruiting is so much different today, but there are similarities. He went on a few visits, but had to make similar choices to mine. He was recruited by Coach Wooden, but would have come off the bench, playing behind Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe. My dad knew that he was good enough to start and be an impact player. He made the right choice and went to Oregon. He also wanted to play games in California in front of his friends and family. That is also something that I have to think about.
"What really impressed my dad and my mom was when Coach Howland had a BBQ this past summer at his house. He invited the team, plus many former Bruins, including Coach Wooden, Bill Walton, and Marques Johnson. A 30-year friend of our family is Gig Sims, who played center at UCLA. Gig was invited to the BBQ and said that it was a great atmosphere, and how nice it was that Coach Howland cared enough to bring all of those generations of UCLA family together.
"My parents will play a big role in my college decision, but they've always told me that it's my decision. They want me to go where I'm going to have the best experience, on and off the court. My parents really like Coach Howland and Coach Keating. They also love Roy Williams, who they have spoken with a few times. My mom thinks that Coach Williams is the nicest person. Coach K also called, and Coach Wojo has been in touch."
When it comes time to make your decision, what will be the most important factors that determine your choice?
"Considering my top three, I guess tradition is a given. What it will come down to is how I connect with my future teammates; how comfortable I am with the coach and his staff; living conditions; style of play and how they will use me in their offense. All three schools are great academically with strong alumni. In 20 years I would like to be in any town and have that connection with somebody who went to my college. I really appreciate the great friendships I've made during high school, AAU play, the Reebok ABCD Camp, and during recruiting. The worst part of this whole experience will be disappointing the schools and coaches that I don't choose."