By AARON SHILL
The pipeline of in-state recruits changed directions on Monday as one of the state’s top prep basketball players announced he was heading south.
Jesse Pinegar, a 6-foot-9 junior at Brighton High in Sandy, made a verbal commitment on Monday to play for BYU under head coach Steve Cleveland.
Pinegar attended the Cougars’ practice Monday before announcing his decision. The standout center said the atmosphere at the school was a big factor in his decision to come to Provo.
“I think I’ll fit in well with the program down there,” Pinegar said.
Pinegar’s announcement is a significant victory for BYU in the in-state recruiting wars. In recent years, the Cougars have watched top recruits like Alex Jensen, Jeff Johnsen and Britton Johnsen end up wearing crimson after signing with the University of Utah.
Pinegar, who still has two seasons to complete at Brighton, said his early announcement could help attract other players to BYU.
“I think maybe I could help some recruiting,” he said. “I just decided, why wait?”
The high school star won’t have to look far to share his influence. Pinegar’s teammates at Brighton, juniors Garner Meads and Lawrence Cowan, are also among the state’s most heavily recruited players.
Meads, who has not decided where he will play, attended practice with Pinegar on Monday.
As the best junior center in Utah, Pinegar has received his share of recruiting mail. Among other schools, Pinegar was courted by Utah, Stanford, Arizona, UCLA, Kansas and Duke.
As a sophomore, Pinegar scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds a game while leading the Bengals to a third-place 5-A finish.
Pinegar said members of the current BYU squad gave him a positive impression of the program.
“Practice was fun to go to because they were so friendly,” he said. “They seemed to work hard.”
Cougar fans can expect Pinegar to provide some versatility for the team in the future. In addition to being a strong post player, Pinegar has three-point range as well as the ability to take the ball to the hoop.
Cleveland is unable to comment on Pinegar until he signs a letter of intent in November of 1999.