Babbitt changes mind |

Babbitt changes mind

Darrell Moody

RENO – Luke Babbitt is staying home after all.

Babbitt, the junior All-American from Galena High School, has opted out of his verbal agreement with Ohio State University and will play basketball in 2008 for the hometown University of Nevada Wolf Pack.

Babbitt originally chose Ohio State over Nevada, UCLA, Arizona and Gonzaga. The 6-foot-8 215-pound forward averaged 28 points and 10 rebounds a game last season to lead the Grizzlies to the 4A NIAA state championship after averaging 24 points and 8.6 rebounds as a sophomore.

Neither Ohio State, nor Nevada, under NCAA rules, can talk about Babbitt, who visited Ohio State early last year.

“Basically I had a change of heart,” Babbitt said Monday afternoon. “I just decided that I wanted to stay close to home.

“Obviously, Nevada is getting better and better, and I want to try and help them keep winning. Coach (Mark) Fox has done a great job up there, and I’ve always liked him. He’s a great guy, and I’m looking forward to playing for him.”

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Babbitt said that he has been in contact with Fox, who is in Hawai’i on vacation, over the past few days, including on Monday.

Babbitt said he informed Ohio State coach Thad Matta of his decision Monday morning. The Galena star indicated that the defection of Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden to the NBA had nothing to do with his decision. It was highly unlikely that Conley Jr. and Oden would have been at OSU in 2008 anyway.

“We didn’t talk long,” Babbitt said. “I don’t know exactly how he took it. This was basically because of me wanting to play in front of my family. It had nothing to do with those guys (going to the NBA).”

Galena coach Tom Mauer was happy with the decision.

“I think it’s good,” Mauer said. “I think he got caught up in the fact that his grandparents live in Ohio and the Ohio State ties that he has because he lived there (when he was younger). I think he wants to play in front of his family and be by his friends.”

Mauer pointed out that Babbitt is good kid who doesn’t smoke or drink and is family-oriented.

“They (my parents) were supportive,” Babbitt said. “They let me decide what I wanted to do.”

The earliest Babbitt can sign a letter of intent is November, but he said his decision is final.

“I thought about it (calling the other schools),” Babbitt said. “This is it for me. I don’t want to be re-recruited. I’m sure I want to go to Nevada. I wanted to let people know as soon as possible.”

Babbitt has played pick-up games with current Nevada players before, and knows Nevada sophomore Matt LaGrone, who played at McQueen. Babbitt also knows incoming Nevada guard Armon Johnson, a good friend of his.

“I know pretty much all the guys,” Babbitt said. “I see a lot of them around. I know Matt LaGrone pretty well because we played against each other two years ago.”

Babbitt said that Johnson never tried to put on any pressure for him to go to Nevada.

“We joked around about it,” Babbitt said. “He’s cool about it. It will be fun to play together on the same team finally. We never have (played with each other) on a big team.”