LITHONIA - Saying he wanted to "feel the pressure" of performing on one of college basketball's biggest stages, Miller Grove center Tony Parker announced Monday afternoon that he would be attending UCLA.
The nation's 27th-ranked player according to Rivals.com, chose the Bruins over Ohio State, Georgia and Duke.
"I wanted to go somewhere where there's pressure to be great and for me UCLA is that place," said Parker, who announced his decision before family, classmates and friends. "It's where I felt I needed to be."
Miller Grove coach Sharman White said the Bruins are getting a lot more than just one of the nation's more talented centers.
"I think Tony brings a lot of things that don't get looked at as a recruit. I'm talking about things like character," White said. "I'm not saying other kids don't have that, but he brings stability, he brings calmness to those guys and I think they're going to gel well together."
On paper, UCLA's fans certainly have a lot to be excited about.
The Bruins already boast four-star forward and former Atlanta Celtic teammate Jordan Adams, plus a pair of five-star performers in forward Kyle Anderson along with close friend and the nation's top player Shabazz Muhammad.
"Shabazz's decision affected me a lot," the 6-foot-9, 265-pound Parker said. "Me and Shabazz basically had the same schools. He's a great guy and he recruited the crap out of me."
But as it turned out his friendship with Adams and Muhammad weren't Parker's only ties to Westwood.
His former Atlanta Celtics coach Korey Moore is currently a Bruin assistant coach, while former UCLA great Marques Johnson is married to a cousin of Parker.
"Nobody knew about that," said Parker after revealing his relationship to Johnson. "He couldn't talk to me, but he's really pushed me hard and I know he was really trying to get me to UCLA."
Moore's presence didn't hurt, either.
Me and Corey are extremely close," Parker said. "He trained me and everything. Corey is a hometown guy, so there's another hometown guy at UCLA, too."
Parker also revealed he came to a final decision about his collegiate home on Thursday.
"Yeah, I decided then," Parker said. "I just felt that this was going to be the best place for me. I saw UCLA as being a great fit. Ohio State was right next to it, and they would pressure me to get better, to work hard. I think it will be the perfect place for me to do that."
As for the home-state Bulldogs, White revealed head coach Mark Fox's squad probably fell out of the running for Parker's services about a week ago.
Still, White gave Georgia plenty of props for staying in the hunt for Parker as long as it did.
"I think Georgia made a lot of headway. Up until a week or so ago I thought they were in great shape," White said. "I think Coach Fox does a great job and Georgia would have been a great fit. But Tony wanted to test the waters, and like he said, he wanted to feel more of a pressure situation. I have to commend him for that, but Georgia did a great job. They weren't even this close three months ago."
As for Parker, he's headed West with no regrets.
"I just know we've got a team that will grow together and everybody's going to have their role," Parker said. "I think we can do just like Kentucky; they signed a big class, came in and did well. I just want to win. I don't want to be "the man.' I just want to win and I really think I'll have a good chance there."