James Keefe Commits

A top-25 national recruit in the class of 2006, 6-8 <b>James Keefe</b> from Santa Margarita High, verbally commits to Ben Howland today...

James Keefe, the 6-8 junior power forward from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita, got his decision out of the way early.

"I verbally committed to UCLA today," Keefe said. "I felt UCLA was the whole package, with a great reputation academically, and a great basketball program, with history and tradition. The coaching staff is great, and I know they really wanted me a lot. It was the best decision for me."

Keefe, considered a top 25 national prospect in the class of 2006, said the talent UCLA has been getting was a factor. "With the great freshmen they have this year, and then they signed a great class for 2005, it shows that they're on their way back. I want to be a part of that rebuilding and win some championships. By the time that I get there I'm sure we'll be really good."

Keefe said he felt he wanted to go to UCLA for some time and wanted to get the commitment out of the way early. "I wanted to do it before my season started, so I could get it over with and focus on my junior year and high school season. I also wanted to see how the 2005 class would play out."

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was also a factor for Keefe in his decision. "I like Coach Howland, and how he runs his program," Keefe said. "I've seen him in games, and in practice, and he's brought a great work ethic, and I really like that. He's brought a whole new beginning to UCLA. And I like the way he uses his four man."

Keefe did, say, though, that UCLA has indicated they'd like to see him as a combo forward. "I think I'll play some three. Hopefully in high school I'll develop the ballhandling, strength and quickness to eventually be able to play the three spot and the four." More than anything, Keefe felt it was the right fit at the right time: "I've always been a UCLA fan. I'd root for them when I saw them on TV when I was a kid. Staying close to home wasn't really a factor. I would have gone away to school if there was a school I liked better. But I do like the Southern California weather."

On the first day that college coaches can be out this fall evaluating, Howland and his assistant Kerry Keating went to Santa Margarita High School, to be given the great news about Keefe.

The talented forward did say he'd now have something else to occupy his time. "I'm going to start recruiting for us now. I know Alex Stepheson pretty well. I've known him for a while. And I know Chase Budinger. They see like great guys and great players."

Keefe has a 3.25 GPA and has yet to take the SAT.

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