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Carlos Boozer Visit To UCLA And
Grant Hill's Cameo: The Truth--(Dec. 13, 1998)

Wow.  Go away for one day, and you miss all the fun speculation on the message boards on the other sites. In case you haven't been over to the WestCoastHoops college message board, or the Banner 12 board, people are speculating alot about the "mysterious" Boozer and Grant Hill connection.  Well, here's the story.  The real story:

Basically, the truth is that there isn't any real story here.  No connection between Boozer's official visit to UCLA and Grant Hill's surprise appearance at UCLA.  None.  Nada.

boozer1.jpg (40962 bytes)
Carlos Boozer (6'-9" Sr. PF) from Juneau, Alaska
watching the UCLA warmups before the game

Yes, Carlos Boozer was at the UCLA game yesterday taking his official visit, and sitting in row 6, Section 113A, with his father and mother.   Section 113A is the section "run" by Michael Sondheimer, whose actual title is "Associate Athletic Director--Recruiting," and it's also run by Neal, the head usher.  If a recruit comes to the campus to make an official visit, or an alum or someone else famous comes to the game, they are more than likely to end up sitting in this section. Why?  Probably because that's where Michael Sondheimer sits.   And because Neal's the usher there.

Was Grant Hill here as some sort of "spy" or "secret-weapon" for coach K?  In a word, no.

Grant Hill was in town for two reasons:  One, he works out with a personal basketball coach (who shall go nameless), who lives in Los Angeles and who sat at the game with him.  Grant was in LA to work out with his personal coach, and they worked out on Saturday morning at the UCLA men's gym.  He and his coach also worked out this morning (Sunday) at the men's gym.  Why?  Because it's a great place to work out, especially if you've got a coach who lives in LA and you're not playing with your team because you've been locked out.  Oh, and it's also a great place to work out if you happen to date a girl who lives here in Los Angeles like Grant does. And that's the second reason (probably the first reason in his mind) why Grant was in town in the first place. 

Hill was here, plain and simple because his girlfriend lives in Los Angeles. She's a Quincy Jones discovery, a singing protege' of Jones with a big recording contract (you'll have to guess).  Basketball, shmasketball, Grant wanted to be with his girlfriend. And yesterday wasn't the first time he's come to Los Angeles.   He actually spent quite a bit of time here last summer too.

But he wasn't here because of Boozer, that's for sure.   Some people on the other boards have also speculated that Hill tried to "get close" to Boozer and that's why he sat in the same section as Boozer and his family during the game, as if Hill had some choice in the matter.  Hill was seated in row 8 of Section 113A with his personal coach, about two rows and a little to the right (facing the court) of where Boozer was seated because that's where UCLA put him.  Really.    He was given tickets to the game by the UCLA athletic office, and if you're given tickets by the UCLA athletic office because you're a big-time NBA star, Section 113 A is the place you're going to be sitting. 

boozer2.jpg (26344 bytes)
Boozer watches UCLA's great comeback yesterday. Two rows behind
him is Grant Hill (partially obscured behind the blonde).  Charles
O'Bannon, Tracy Murray, and Kris Johnson were also in attendance.

Yesterday there were lots of players in Section 113A.   How about Charles O'Bannon and Kris Johnson sitting in row one of Section 113A?   How about Apolinar Fernandez of Artesia (who came with a couple of other kids from Artesia) sitting next to Grant Hill?  And Tracy Murray was also there, sitting in Section 113A in row 2, just to the right of Boozer.

Hill's presence had nothing to do with Boozer's official visit. Oh, and contrary to some other speculation we've read, Hill and Boozer didn't talk at all during or after the game.  Hill stuck around for a while signing autographs and posing for pictures, while Carlos and his family talked with their host and waited for Baron Davis to get showered after the game.  Grant left with his personal coach, while Carlos hung around the gym for at least a half an hour, just taking it all in.

And as for those other messages we've been reading over on Banner 12 or WestCoastHoops college Fan Forum, stuff about some UCLA fans during the game walking up to Hill and saying insulting things about him or Duke, actually we didn't witness any of that.  Really.  And if it happened, it sure didn't seem to have any effect on Hill, who was smiling and talking with kids and students after the game.  

Again, we just want to set the record straight:  That the greatest player in the history of Duke basketball showed up at Pauley when UCLA's biggest recruit of the season (who is also still considering Duke, St. John's and UCLA) is on his official visit was just a pure coincidence.  Grant Hill doesn't work for coach K, in fact right now he doesn't "work" for anyone (small attempt at humor there).   Was Duke sending Boozer some sort of a message with Hill's presence at the game?  Nonsense.   How often do great players, especially NBA players show up at UCLA games?  All the time. Pure coincidence. Nothing to it.

apolinar.jpg (35118 bytes)
Apolinar Fernandez (6'-9" So. PF) from Artesia (center) was also

watching the game yesterday at Pauley

We also had a chance to talk with Carlos after the game, and he was, as always, cool and reserved. "I'm still looking at all three schools and won't decide until spring," Carlos told us.  His father and mother were very happy, and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely,  and as Carlos and his parents walked out the Northeast tunnel stairs into the warm 70 degree sunshine on a December afternoon, we could only think to ourselves. . . St. John's and snow. . . Duke and . . . well, not much.  But then maybe the weather wouldn't make that much difference to a kid from Juneau.  Or maybe it would.  The only thing we know for sure is that none of us know anything for sure. 

During the game, we were sitting just below Carlos in the press row, and he looked to be enjoying himself during the entire game. Oh sure he was a little perplexed like the rest of us when UCLA squandered 17-4 first half lead and let UNLV tie it up, but overall he was really pretty relaxed and seemed to be taking it all in.  We later moved over to sit with one of our friends in the same row as Boozer (about two seats away) and noted one interesting fact during the first half:  When Ray Young came into the game with 10:20 to play in the first half, substituting in for Rico Hines, Boozer immediately looked up and checked the clock (at least that's what it looked like he was doing).    And for a young player like Boozer, that's a great sign that a coach like Lavin isn't nervous or afraid to use his freshmen.   Really, a very smart move to get Young into the game early.

Of course it's possible to speculate on every move that Lavin made, and to see things in every turn in the game and wonder what Carlos was thinking.  Whatever it was, he wasn't telling anyone, except maybe his father and mother.

And one last word about Grant Hill:  He's a a 100% genuinely warm and fine human being, and UCLA fans should be happy to have someone of Hill's stature and character at the game.  He made a lot of little kids happy, signing over 100 autographs, taking photos with kids, and generally being a pleasant person, not at all the kind of over-inflated ego that other $100 million players have.  

If Boozer does decide to come to UCLA, we're sure it will be because of the basketball.  We're sure it will also be because he can play any position he wants.  And we're sure it will be because coach Lavin will regularly let him play 30 minutes a game, maybe more.  But there's also another reason, and, well, a picture is worth a thousand words:  reason.jpg (37769 bytes)

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