has been to Los Angeles three times, but he’s never been on the UCLA campus.
He knows about the Southern California weather, he knows the food and the people. He’s eaten in L.A. and he’s met the people himself.
But this weekend, when he ventures to Westwood for an official visit as the No. 2-ranked small forward and No. 8-ranked overall player – one of three in the country still uncommitted – Thomas wants to really feel what UCLA is about.
“I’m familiar with the program, what they’ve produced, the tradition they have, but I really want to go to see the campus, see the enviornament, the players that are there,” Thomas said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It gives them a chance to really show me what they have to offer. I want to see the academic side of the school, the style of play, what I can expect if I come here.
“This is my third time in LA, first on campus, so I have to really tune in on the visit.”
Visiting this weekend along with friend Quinn Cook, the No. 4 point guard in the country, Thomas hopes to get a feel most for the players and Ben Howland’s playing style.
“That’s great for me to get a chance being with the guys,” Thomas said. “I might be there for four years. I want to be familiar with the guys I’ll be hanging out with on the off the court. That chemistry off the court leads to success on the court.”
UCLA is one of five schools still in the running for Thomas’ services, including Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida, and he said “all five of the schools all have a great shot right now.”
Unimpressed by factors such as weather and location and the quality of campus, Thomas is really just trying to get a grasp of his future development, hoping to become another in a successful line of pros who matriculated at UCLA.
“When I get there, I want to develop,” Thomas said. “I want to get to the next level. I want to go to a school that puts me in the league. No, (location, etc.) doesn’t matter at all. No matter where I go, the weather’s going to be changing.”
The biggest sell for Howland and Co. on this trip: Trying to convey that the development of some of the recent stars – Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday – was furthered along by Howland.
“That’s one thing I have to see,” Thomas said. “I’m a guy who can fit into any type of offensive or defensive strategy. I havent really had a chance to see those guys play, but I’ve heard he’s a really good defensive coach and runs a good pick-and-roll system.
“From what he’s produced, they’ve been successful. I want to be in the league just like those guys.”