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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Unselfish Lavender commits to Wildcats

    Before UA assistant coach Josh Pastner worked out Friday, he received a phone call that likely got his heart rate up more than the workout itself. Brendon Lavender was on the other line announcing his intentions to commit to the Wildcats.

    As Lavender’s AAU coach Anthony Ray recalled of the three-way conversation, Lavender’s lead recruiter Pastner said, “”Man, after that news I don’t have to go work out.””

    Lavender, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Mesa ranked No. 101 nationally by the recruiting service, became the second UA commit in the class of 2008 in the past week after forward Emmanuel Negedu committed Sunday. They are the only two players in the class, with Arizona expecting to have two more scholarships available.

    After Lavender’s unofficial visit over the weekend of April 14 he originally said he would wait until July to make a commitment and has gotten interest from Connecticut, Kansas, USC and Washington State, he said. However, he said he felt comfortable with Arizona, and especially after Negedu committed, he wanted to take the scholarship offer before anybody else did so first.

    “”I told Brendon he’s not going to find a better situation in terms of level of basketball and obviously in terms of coaching,”” Ray said. “”I thought it was a perfect fit and made sense to get it done. … It made sense to go ahead and join the party.””

    Lavender, the state’s top prospect, never thought he would be in this situation, committing to the school he dreamed of playing for in his youth.

    “”I never even thought I would meet the man himself, coach Olson,”” said Lavender, a three-star guard. “”It’s just crazy when he actually called to actually talk to me. It’s a dream come true. It’s an insane, crazy experience right now.””

    Lavender said he chose the Wildcats for a number of reasons: Tucson is close to home and family, he feels Olson is one of the greatest coaches ever, the team’s always good and many of the school’s guards end up being selected in the NBA Draft.

    He also feels like he will fit into Arizona’s up-tempo style and the four out, one in offense the Wildcats often utilized, saying, “”It’s a perfect fit. I love it.””

    Also, although Lavender said he had no clue Kevin O’Neill would be named a UA assistant, he’s excited to be tutored by the former Toronto Raptors head coach.

    “”It’s huge because I know he loves to coach defense, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the game,”” Lavender said. “”I can’t wait for him to teach me a bunch of new tricks and all kinds of new stuff. It’s awesome and huge.””

    Ray, Gary Ernst – Lavender’s high school head coach at Mesa Mountain View – and recruiting Web site’s national recruiting director Dave Telep all described Lavender as unselfish.

    “”For Brendon the best thing he does well is make other players better,”” Ray said. “”He’s very unselfish, extremely athletic, can shoot extremely well and defends well. His best attribute is he’s just a great teammate. He passes the ball, is very unselfish, loves to find the open man, and he’s just a guy like (UA forward) Chase Budinger who can score when he needs to. He does what needs to be done to make the team win.””

    Ray also compared Lavender to former UA forward Luke Walton in terms of his ability to make others better, although he said Lavender is quicker and more athletic but not as big as the current Los Angeles Laker.

    His unselfishness worked on a Mountain View squad last year that featured Harper Kamp and Kendall Wallace, who will be freshman at California and Nevada-Las Vegas next year, respectively. Lavender played the third wheel, averaging 11.4 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers and 80 percent at the free throw line and often guarding the opponent’s best player.

    That helped the Toros win the Arizona state championship for the third consecutive time, twice with Lavender on the roster.

    “”Brendon just fit in,”” Ernst said. “”He has a great deal of maturity. He didn’t want to upset chemistry. He fit in very, very well. He did it because what makes us a good team is to have chemistry, which makes us even better.””

    However, at the Las Vegas Easter Classic April 5-8 for Ray’s Arizona Magic, Lavender showcased his entire game, which he could not always display in high school on a state championship team with two D-I players on which he was the third-leading scorer. The Wildcats swooped in with a scholarship offer after the event.

    “”Everyone got a chance to see him in his own element, running the floor getting out on defense 94 feet, scoring in transition, catching alley-oop dunks, showing how athletic he is and how explosive he is,”” Ray said. “”That’s what made the biggest difference in his game. One thing about the AAU game is it’s so much faster and quicker. Guys really get after it. Nobody had an idea how athletic he was until then.””

    Now Lavender has a year to expand his versatile game, which Ernst said will include “”a lot”” of time at point guard for Mountain View in the school’s quest for a fourth straight state title.

    Ray added that Lavender is learning when to pass, when to score and when to take over a game and not be too unselfish, which he should get a number of opportunities doing this year as the Toros’ leader.

    If he finds the right mix before arriving in Tucson for the 2008-09 season, the Wildcats could have another passer in the mold of Budinger and Walton on their hands.

    “”I just haven’t seen too many guards who have the feel he does,”” Ray said.

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