Zach LaVine verbally commits to UCLA

Just got off the phone with No. 17 PG Zach LaVine, who just committed to UCLA. Let’s just say he was giddy. It was the Bruins’ second big commitment of the day, only Jim Mora benefitted the first time, not Ben Howland, as No. 19 OLB Myles Jack committed to the football team.

Here’s my interview with Lavine.

JG: So, big night for you?
Zach LaVine: “It’s just been hectic. So many phone calls. I’m really excited. All my family is from UCLA. California is home away from home for me. My dad’s favorite school. They’ve always been my favorite. I’ve been on a bunch of visits, they’ve seen me play 10, 15 times, and it seems like the right idea.”

JG: Right now, Russell Westbrook is in the NBA Finals, you’ve got Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday and Jordan Farmar…
LaVine (cutting me off): “The list goes on man! I just want to be just like them. My dream is to play in the NBA, but I’m gpoing to play step by step and go in with the mentality that I want to be the best I can be and help UCLA as a program.”

JG: When you think of these guys as not only your heroes, but now they’re going to be fellow alumni, brethren, you’re playing against them at UCLA during the offseason, talk about what it means to not just have them as heroes but to have them available?
ZL: “It’s going to be a great resource. Up in Washington, I work out with Tony Wroten, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, a lot of those guys, and when I play against them, I have the mentality that I’m the best on the court. Every time I step on the court I think I’m better than everyone, and that’s not to talk in a cocky way, but that’s just my mentality to get it going. So it’s going to be so much fun playing with those guys and trying to get better and learn from them.”

JG: You talk to Jerime Anderson, Zeek Jones, and it’s almost like they learn more during the offseason playing against all those guys then against the other Pac-12 teams. What do you hope to learn around those stars, like you are now?
ZL “Down at UCLA, all the pros go there. I was there last summer, not playing. I might be playing this summer. Blake, Arron Afflalo, Deandre Jordan, just to name a couple, and it was incredible. I hope to learn point guard skills, off-guard skills, defensive skills. I want to be the best I can. I hope my game grows exponentially. Hopefully I can get to where they are now.”

JG: UCLA has struggled recently and the Sports Illustrated story and everything, why did you stick with them even when things looked shaky.
ZL “Look, they have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country right now, and I’m just hoping I can make things a little bit better. The SI story, I really didn’t pay attention to it. Everyone gets a bad article every once in a while. Coaches can talk you up as much as they can, but once you commit, that’s their domain. That’s how every coach is. Every coach wants to win so they’re going to be hard on you, they’re going to push you. I talked to Coach Howland about it, and that was just a bad article. I know he’s nothing like that at all. He’s a great guy, and hopefully I can do my best for him.”

JG: I talk to some kids, and they talk about playing time or they’re opportunity and the team, but you sound really excited about UCLA. What does this mean to you, now that you can finally say the process is done?
ZL: “It means a tremendous amount to me right now. Me and my dad, going through the hardest process. I feel like not many kids have had the process my dad and I have had over the last couple years, staying up late, shooting in the rain, running in the rain, 1,000 shots, 600 shots, 500 shots, working on core flexibility, plyometrics. It’s been a long process. Im glad to get it over with. It’s monkey off my back. It’s an accomplishment for my family.
“It’s a compliment to go to UCLA. It’s an honor.”