After years of anticipation, it has finally happened.
Class of 2007 superstar guard Jerryd Bayless verbally committed to Arizona moments ago during his press conference inside the gymnasium at Phoenix St. Mary's High School.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound dynamo chose Arizona over Texas after also considering Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA previously.
Dozens of Wildcat fans made the one-hour drive north from Tucson to witness Bayless's announcement live and none left disappointed. The crowd erupted into a loud roar of excitement when Bayless made his decision.
Arizona head coach Lute Olson and his staff of assistants - primarily Josh Pastner - had been following Bayless's career since middle school and made no secret of the fact he was Arizona's top recruiting priority regardless of class beginning over a year ago. Today, their hard work finally paid off.
Bayless is currently rated No. 11 in the 2007 class but in reality he is probably closer to No. 1 than No. 11 thanks to his explosive scoring ability which is predicated upon athleticism, aggression and a beautiful jump shot with range.
He can play both guard positions but is most effective with the ball in his hands so he can use his explosive quickness to get past his man for easy scores or trips to the free throw line after drawing contact and the foul.
For years, Bayless's game has been compared to former UA All-American point guard Mike Bibby, but a more accurate assessment would be pointing out the similarities he shares with NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, a guard who excels offensively via penetration, is second-to-none as a finisher and is also an adept passer.
Like Bibby in 1996, Bayless becomes one of the most important recruits ever for Arizona under Olson, primarily because a player of his caliber simply cannot be allowed to leave the state. The Wildcat coaches protected their turf wonderfully with Bayless - once again out-working all challengers, as has become the norm with Olson's staff.
What a commitment from Bayless does is keep Arizona as legitimate contenders for National Championships through the end of Olson's coaching career (read: another decade or so). Make no mistake about it; Jerryd Bayless is a guy programs win championships with. He is that special and that transcendent.
His verbal pledge gives Arizona two commitments from the 2007 class, including 7-foot-1 center Alex Jacobson from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei HS.
Bayless won't be able to sign a binding Letter-of-Intent until Nov. 8, 2006, when he will headline yet another outstanding Olson recruiting class.
Bayless becomes the eighth recruit from the state of Arizona during Olson's reign in Tucson, joining David Haskin (Tucson Sahuaro), Sean Elliott (Tucson Cholla), Deron Johnson (Tucson Sunnyside), Bibby (Phoenix Shadow Mountain), Dion Broom (Mesa Westwood), Richard Jefferson (Phoenix Moon Valley) and Channing Frye (Phoenix St. Mary's).
Basketball fans are encouraged to attend Bayless's first set of games this season when St. Mary's takes part in a big tournament at Mesa High School beginning Monday, Nov. 21. The Knights are not scheduled to play in Tucson during the upcoming season.
The Wildcats may still yet add a fourth member to its 2006 recruiting class if Lance Thomas elects to sign with Arizona by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
He would join Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise, all of whom signed with the UA on Wednesday.
Or, Thomas could opt to wait until the spring period (April 12 - May 17, 2006) to sign if he chooses Arizona over Duke, Rutgers and Wake Forest.