UCLA's basketball future received a big boost Tuesday when it was announced that twin forwards David and Travis Wear would be joining the Bruins.
The Wears, both 6 feet 10 and muscular, disappointed UCLA Coach Ben Howland two years ago when they spurned scholarship offers from the Bruins to sign with North Carolina. But Howland sounded excited on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, saying he was "happy" and even "elated" to add the former McDonald's All-Americans to his roster.
"We were disappointed when we didn't get them originally, but I'm so thankful how things work out," the coach said.
The Wears helped Santa Ana Mater Dei High win two state championships, and their decision to become Bruins gives UCLA an immediate boost even though NCAA transfer rules require them to sit out next season. After that, they each will have three years of remaining eligibility.
The Wears are expected to improve competition in practice, something Howland said has been critical to the success of past UCLA teams.
"They're going to have one year practicing every day, getting bigger and stronger," he said. "You talk about hitting the ground running. They're going to be hitting the ground sprinting. I feel very good, blessed and happy."
With the Wears in the fold, UCLA's still-unfinished recruiting class has risen in stature. Already signed were McDonald's All-American Josh Smith, a 6-9 center from Kentwood, Wash.; Mater Dei guard Tyler Lamb; junior college guard Lazeric Jones from Illinois; and guard Matt Carlino from Bloomington, Ind.
UCLA is also in the running for 6-7 Remi Barry, who grew up in France and attends Loomis Del Oro High in Northern California.
The Wears were at Mater Dei on Tuesday, visiting with their high school coach, Gary McKnight. Both players said they had no regrets about choosing North Carolina out of high school, but that they wanted to play closer to family and friends.
"I thought I'd like getting away from home," Travis said.
Added David: "It was a great experience playing for North Carolina and getting used to college basketball."
When North Carolina announced earlier this month that the twins were transferring, Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams expressed "complete surprise" at the decision, saying both were "quality players" who "would have been very important parts of our team next season."
Each of the Wears averaged about 10 minutes of playing time per game as a freshman. Travis averaged 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds. David averaged 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds but missed the last nine games because of a partially torn labrum in his hip that required surgery. He has been cleared to resume playing.
"They're wonderful young men who represent the ideals of UCLA," Howland said.