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TURNER/CARROLL'S PAGE TURNS TO PITT FOR COLLEGE

A few years ago, the thought of playing college basketball was the farthest thing from Julius Page's mind. Playing at that level was, as he put it, "a dream that might never come true."

However, that dream will soon be a reality as the senior guard from Turner/Carroll has verbally committed to play for the University of Pittsburgh next year.

"Words just can't describe how I feel right now," said Page, a first-team All-Western New York selection last season. "I can't believe that it's happening. None of my family ever went to college on scholarship. For me to be the first means a lot to my family."

The 6-foot-3 Page is rated one of the 100 players in the nation by several recruiting analysts. He's an explosive leaper and tremendous outside shooter, qualities that allow him to score points in bunches.

He averaged more than 20 points per game last season to help lead Turner/Carroll to a second consecutive New York State championship.

Several schools had been recruiting Page, who had narrowed his list to Pitt, Clemson, Notre Dame and Villanova.

"I had some great schools to choose from," he said. "But Pittsburgh just seemed to be the best situation. They are rebuilding, so the coach (Ben Howland) said I have a good chance to come in and start right away. It's the best fit for me."

Howland, who comes to Pitt after leading a once-doormat Northern Arizona program into an annual NCAA Tournament participant, is not allowed to comment on unsigned recruits.

However, Turner/Carroll coach Fajri Ansari said Howland was very elated by the decision.

"Julius was their No. 1 guy overall, and they did a great job recruiting him," Ansari said. "Clemson was right in there. Any kid has to be interested in playing in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). Notre Dame and Villanova also did a good job and made a nice pitch.

"But I think when you weigh everything out, Pitt is the place where he has the best opportunity. Julius felt good about Pitt all along, and after his unofficial visit, he knew that's where he wanted to go."

Another factor in Page's decision is Pitt's close proximity to Buffalo. He also has family in the Steel City and Ansari has several ties there as well. Also, former Pitt and Bennett High star Curtis Aiken still lives in the area.

"It is important to us that Julius have a good support system in place," Ansari said. "Pitt is a place where several (former) players live in the city or are still connected to it. The coaching staff is good, and I was very impressed with the behind the scenes people. They seem very committed to the players on and off the court."

Page, who plans to major in business, wanted to commit early to end the constant speculation about his future.

"Now I can focus on just playing basketball," he said. "I have a lot of work to do to get better, like improving my ball-handling, shooting and defense. I want to give myself the best opportunity to be successful at Pittsburgh."

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