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Boys' baskeball: Polee is first recruit for fired-up Lavin

May 10, 2010 | 12:56 pm

Steve Lavin spent 12 years coaching at UCLA, including seven as basketball coach, lost his job, became an analyst at ESPN, and now he's back as the new coach at St. John's and using his Southern California roots to land the City Section player of the year, Dwayne Polee Jr., from Westchester.

St. John's received Polee's letter of intent over the weekend, clearing the way for Lavin to comment.

"He's such an engaging individual," Lavin said Monday. "I developed a comfort level in a short time."

Lavin said after his hiring he tried to figure out who were the best players still available, then narrowed the list down to whom he could recruit in a short period of time. He called Westchester Coach Ed Azzam and studied Polee by video.

"The winning culture is something you want to recruit," he said. "Watching the footage and making phone calls to people I respect, there was consistent assessment he has tremendous ability and upside and has the desire to work on his game."

Lavin said he hoped to recruit at St. John's the same way he did at UCLA -- recruit from all over, including occasionally in Southern California.

"When I interviewed for the position, I shared I really felt that St. John's has a global reach similar to UCLA," he said.

As far as coming back to play UCLA on Feb. 5 at Pauley Pavilion, Lavin said, "That will be a special experience to come in as an opposing coach."

-- Eric Sondheimer