By the time Steve Klosterman finishes his college recruiting trips, he'll probably qualify to be a restaurant critic, considering how much steak, lobster and prime rib he'll be eating over the next month.
Klosterman, a 6-foot-7 volleyball player at Huntington Beach Marina High, is the No. 1 high school prospect in the nation, which means he's going to encounter an elaborate wooing process.
On each college trip, schools will feed him until he's stuffed. They'll escort him on a private tour of the campus, maybe put his name in lights on the arena scoreboard and try to treat him to such a unique experience that he'll want to sign a letter of intent Nov. 13.
UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Hawaii, UC Irvine and Long Beach State are the schools taking their best shots.
"I really don't know where I'm going," Klosterman said.
He does have some ideas what he's looking for, such as what the school has to offer academically and how well the players get along as a team.
"Probably most important is how the coach treats players," Klosterman said. "Is he a personable guy you can go up and talk to?"
Klosterman will soon learn that every coach is personable during the recruiting process. That's what makes a final decision so difficult.
Of course, some athletes end the suspense by committing early. It eases the stress and helps keep their waistlines in check.
USC baseball Coach Mike Gillespie should be celebrating because he has finished his recruiting, thanks to early commitments from pitcher Ian Kennedy and third baseman Ian Stewart of Westminster La Quinta, pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes of Riverside Poly, shortstop Hector Estrella of Covina Northview and outfielder Daniel Perales of Santa Ana Mater Dei.
But some of those baseball recruits might not make it to USC. Several could be high draft choices in June and offered lucrative signing bonuses to pass up college.
"This is high-risk stuff," Gillespie said.
From last year's recruiting class, Gillespie signed shortstop Sergio Santos from Mater Dei, but he never made it on campus after signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a first-round draft choice.
High school seniors in every sport except football, boys' and girls' soccer and boys' water polo can sign Nov. 13.
There are plenty of elite athletes in Southern California still trying to figure out their college choices.
Orange County is the place to visit in girls' water polo, because that's where six of the nation's top prospects live.
"It's by far the best and deepest class yet," UCLA Coach Adam Krikorian said.
Among the players facing tough college decisions are Emily Feher, Brittany Hayes and Gaby Domanic of Santa Ana Foothill, Erika Figge and Aimee Stachowski of Santa Margarita and Meredith McColl of Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley.
Water polo coaches have been offering women's scholarships since 1994.
In softball, infielder Jodie Legaspi of Garden Grove Pacifica is the object of an intense recruiting competition between collegiate powers UCLA and Arizona.
In girls' basketball, Noelle Quinn of Torrance Bishop Montgomery is considered one of the top guards in the nation. She's also an All-American in volleyball. Stanford is considered the leader among the many schools trying to sign her.
In boys' basketball, Sean Phaler, a 6-9 forward from Villa Park, has his sights on Indiana, UCLA, Washington and Oregon. D.J. Strawberry, a 6-5 forward from Mater Dei, has committed to defending NCAA champion Maryland.
In boys' water polo, 6-7 1/2 Trevor Clark of Anaheim Servite, a member of the U.S. junior national team, will be taking recruiting trips to USC, UCLA and California. He has family ties to USC, so the Trojans are the team to beat.
The Southland's three top boys' golfers--Kevin Larsen of Santa Barbara San Marcos, Henry Liaw of Hacienda Heights Los Altos and Josh Wooding of Riverside Poly--are visiting a number of schools.
In baseball, one of the top uncommitted pitchers is left-hander David Huff of Huntington Beach Edison. He visited Long Beach State last weekend and has a trip scheduled to Irvine.
Sometimes it helps to have family connections. Brian Schroeder, the son of former UCLA and Washington Redskin quarterback Jay Schroeder, was a heavily recruited left-handed pitcher at El Cajon Christian High.
"We kind of let him pick and choose," Jay said. "He had some great choices."
In the end, Brian settled on the Bruins, which made his parents, both UCLA graduates, feel good.
"I've been [to UCLA] once or twice," Jay said.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com.