First impressions can often go a long way. The UCLA Bruins hope they've made theirs on Maarty Leunen, the versatile 6-foot-9, 210-pound combo forward from Redmond, Oregon. Leunen recently returned from his first official visit to Westwood, where Ben Howland and company were quite successful in catching his attention.
"It was awesome," said Leunen. "I had a good time seeing the city, meeting the coaching staff for the first time, playing with the players and everything. They took me all around town, to Bellaire, Beverly Hills, down to Rodeo Drive, the Staples Center -- out all over."
Clearly, Leunen was impressed with the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles. But he also liked what he saw of the UCLA campus and the presentation of its basketball program and its history.
"It's just awesome there," said Leunen. "The campus is really nice. They have nice facilities, Pauley Pavilion and everything. They took me to their Hall of Fame, showed me the college titles and all that."
Michael Fey hosted Leunen on his visit. In addition to all the sight-seeing, Leunen had the chance to scrimmage with the current Bruin players during his trip. But in addition to current UCLA players (and Malik Hairston, who was also making an official visit), Leunen got a chance to meet and play with some possible future teammates.
"We went to the football game at the Rose Bowl, but only for a half -- it was extremely hot," said Leunen. "So we left and went back to Pauley Pavilion and Jordan Farmer and Arron Afflalo were there and we scrimmaged with them."
Farmer and Afflalo were making unofficial visits to campus to join in the festivities. And there were even more additional guests at Pauley Pavilion that made a definite impression on Leunen.
"I got to play against 14 professionals," said Leunen, who started naming off some of the current and former NBA players he got to scrimmage with. "Magic Johnson -- I got to meet him. Paul Pierce, Mark Jackson, Olden Polynice, Bryon Russell -- that was cool."
While Leunen clearly enjoyed every part of his visit, he has filed all the information away in his head as he looks forwards to his remaining official visits -- Gonzaga, Oregon, and Oregon State. "I feel good that I've seen UCLA and everything," said Leunen. "I now have something to compare to with my other visits for the next two weeks."
Leunen did not make any commitment during or after his visit. And continue to not expect any decision until he's made all of his scheduled official visits. "I for sure will take them all," said Leunen.
Jed Tai is a senior writer with Hoopville.com
Next up for Leunen will be in-home visits from Oregon's Ernie Kent (Sept. 15) and Gonzaga's Mark Few (Sept. 16). He will visit Gonzaga from Sept. 19-21, Oregon from Sept. 23-25, and Oregon State from Sept. 26-28.