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Prep Basketball Letters of Intent : For Poway’s Buechler, the Choice Is Arizona

Poway High School’s Jud Buechler, San Diego’s top high school basketball prospect, woke up Wednesday morning with something very important on his mind.

Wednesday was the first day of the spring period that high school athletes could sign national letters of intent to attend the college of their choice. Buechler had narrowed his choice to UCLA and Arizona, but still a final decision had to be made.

By 10 a.m., Buechler, the county’s top scorer with a 23.3 average, decided he would attend the University of Arizona.

“It has been on my mind for quite some time and I decided to take care of it,” Buechler said. “I love (Arizona Coach) Lute Olson, and I think I’ll be able to reach my full potential if I go there.”

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Buechler phoned Olson, who was in San Diego to visit with Buechler Tuesday, to let him know of his decision.

Then came the hard part. He had to call UCLA.

“I called and told (assistant coach) Andre McCarter I was going to go to Arizona,” Buechler said. “Walt Hazzard (the Bruins’ head coach) called me back five minutes later and he sounded upset. But he was polite and he handled my decision with class. What can they say? They thought they had me. All he could say was that he was disappointed.”

Olson, who flew back to Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday, could not be reached for comment. But he did issue a statement: “The thing that impressed me about Jud is his all-around athletic ability. He’s a great competitor and an outstanding shooter who plays a very solid all-around game.”

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Buechler, a 6-foot 6-inch forward, led Poway to three straight San Diego Section 3-A championships. Arizona, the defending Pac-10 champion, returns four of its five starters next season, but Buechler said he knows he will get a lot of playing time.

“He (Olson) said that since I can do a lot of things, he would find a place for me to play,” Buechler said. “A lot of people don’t know that they have a great program going down there. At school, people were asking me why I’d want to go to Arizona. They didn’t know that they won the Pac-10 last year.”

Pepperdine, the only team from California to play in the NCAA tournament last season, signed four players to letters of intent.

The Waves, who landed guard Ed Allen of City College of San Francisco in November, increased their recruiting class to five with three California players and an All-State player from Nevada. In addition, Coach Jim Harrick said that efforts are continuing to sign one or two more local standouts in the next few days, but he would not be specific.

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“I think we recruited some fine athletes, consistent with the type of players we’ve had in my seven years at Pepperdine,” Harrick said. “We’re recruiting that other player, who is 6-9 (Harrick declined to name him), and we will probably know in a day or two what he plans to do. If we get him, this will probably be our second-best class since I came here.”

With guards Jon Korfas and Dwayne Polee and swingman Grant Gondrezick graduating, Harrick was especially pleased to fill potential holes in the backcourt by signing Lafayette Dorsey of Dorsey, Wally Carter of Las Vegas High and Donnie Moore of West Valley Junior College in San Jose.

The 6-1 Carter averaged 25.6 points a game, earning All-Nevada honors, and Moore, although only 6 feet, is said to be an impressive leaper.

All-City forward Michael Courtney of Westchester was Pepperdine’s other addition.

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The Waves also expected to get 6-9 Marcellus Lee of Pomona, but Lee changed his mind at the last minute and chose Loyola Marymount.

USC and UCLA reported no signings Wednesday.

USC is still waiting for forward Chris Munk of San Francisco Riordan, one of the top prospects in California, to decide. USC, as is UCLA, is lining up additional players for visits before the signing period ends May 15.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day for the Pac-10, with Oregon the only school other than Arizona to add a player. The Ducks got forward Ed Briggs of Anchorage, Alaska, and Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore.

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UC Irvine announced the signings of guard Jason Turner of Encino Crespi and forward Frank Woods from Seward County Community College of Liberal, Kan. Cal State Long Beach got Lee Roy Brown, a 6-6 forward who averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds a game last season for Cohen High School in New Orleans.

The Nevada Las Vegas women’s team also had a big day in Southern California, getting Pauline and Geannine Jordan, the twins who led Pasadena Muir to the No. 1 spot in the nation for part of the season, and Linda Staley of Palmdale, perhaps the top player in the Southern Section 3-A Division.

The USC women’s golf team announced the signing of Tracy Nakamura of Alhambra High School, one of the top junior players in the area. She won the Junior World Tournament in San Diego in 1980.

Times staff writer Scott Howard-Cooper also contributed to this story.

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