Top 25 forward Craig Victor said it wasn't easy to sit in front of hometown folks and tell them he was committing to the Arizona Wildcats today.
But he did anyway. For him, there were too many reasons not to choose the Wildcats over in-state choice LSU.
"The opportunity, the school in general, the supporting cast, the fans, the brand of the school and the role I'd be in," Victor said today by telephone from New Orleans. "It's just to be able to develop my skills so I can play in the NBA. That's the main thing. Come in and compete with everybody."
Victor, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward from St. Augustine High School, announced his choice today in New Orleans at a banquet for his travel-ball team, the New Orleans Elite. He had also been considering Oklahoma State and Louisville.
Known for a solid game around the basket, Victor had long considered the Wildcats and spoke highly of them during an interview with the Star last month. But there was speculation that LSU moved in strongly this month, with the help of new assistant Korey McCray.
A former coach with the well-regarded Atlanta Celtics travel-ball team, McCray helped UCLA land Jordan Adams and Tony Parker before moving to LSU last spring.
"He was definitely thinking about other schools," said Gregg Holmes, coach and director of the New Orleans Elite. LSU "did a great job of recruiting him and trying to convince him to stay home and become a guy who could change the program. They're on the upswing."
However, the Wildcats also had a New Orleans connection in associate head coach Joe Pasternack, formerly the head coach at the University of New Orleans.
Holmes said Pasternack had watched Victor since eighth grade when he was the UNO coach and that Pasternack kept recruiting him once he arrived at Arizona in May 2011.
Holmes said Victor also knew UA assistant Book Richardson from playing travel-ball against him, and knew assistant Damon Stoudamire, who had recruited New Orleans players for Memphis before moving to UA this summer.
Victor joins Los Angeles point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright in UA’s class of 2014 so far, and UA coach Sean Miller has said he expects to total five or six players between the fall and spring signing periods. The Wildcats are bracing for several players to make early pro departures next spring.
Arizona is also involved with several other top frontcourt prospects from the class of 2014, including Justise Winslow of Houston, Stanley Johnson of Fullerton, Calif., Kameron Chatman of Portland, Ore., along with Top 10 big men Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander of Chicago, and Myles Turner of Bedford, Texas.