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October 31, 2013
Five-star power forward Kevon Looney and his family quietly visited UCLA a few days ago. They saw the campus, took in a few practices, hung out with coaches and players, and left without a whole lot of fanfare.
Most didn't give UCLA much of a chance after that. But looking back on it, people should have.
Looney stunned the recruiting world Thursday morning, picking the Bruins over some heavy hitters, which included Duke, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
"California is a great place," Looney told media members after his decision. "UCLA was a great campus. One of the most beautiful campuses I had ever seen. Coach (Steve) Alford, he's a great coach. When I visited, I saw their team, I saw how they bought into the system and they have a great style of play that I can fit in."
Looney is a huge addition to the UCLA 2014-15 roster, especially considering the severe lack of depth in the front court for that year. Both Wear twins, David and Travis, will graduate after this season. And most expect Kyle Anderson to turn pro. Which leaves the Bruins staring at a 2014-15 front court of Tony Parker, Wanaah Bail and new '14 commitment Gyorgy Goloman.
Looney, though, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound future pro, should slide in and compete for starting minutes right away, bolstering the defense inside the paint and providing some much-needed overall athleticism to the team.
"When it came down to it," Looney said, "I felt UCLA was my best option."
He sure made Bruin coaches sweat it out, however.
Looney said even his own parents didn't know where he was going to go to school before he made the announcement Thursday morning. His decision was so secretive, he kept the UCLA hat he was going to wear for his decision locked away in a big suitcase.
"Nobody knew except for me," said Looney, who hadn't even called Alford yet to tell him the news after his press conference. "I kept it to myself."
Looney will be a huge presence for UCLA on the floor in his career, but he should also be a big help in attracting other elite recruits into the fold, notably five-star wing Justise Winslow this year. Winslow, like Looney, recently visited UCLA. And he, like Looney, also has some family in the area that could sway him to Westwood.
But for now, UCLA will be happy to have Looney. And he couldn't be happier to hear that.
"It feels great," Looney said. "It was tough getting here, but I'm happy I made this today. It was a great day. I feel great."