Noah Allen had conversations with UCLA in the past, but he didn't take them too seriously.
"I had spoken to them," Allen said. "But I'm not a top 5 blue chipper. I just did not think UCLA was interested in me as a basketball player."
"I think he made an impression with them in July," Palma coach Paul Alioto said. "Here is a big wing that can shoot it. He changed their view of him. The UCLA coach saw him play in person and really liked him."
The feeling was mutual the minute Allen arrived on campus last weekend on a recruiting trip. Before he left Los Angeles, the senior forward verbally committed to become a Bruin.
"It's just a feeling when you find the right place," Allen said. "The tradition of this program goes so far back. UCLA develops players and gets them better each year. It was a pretty easy decision."
The 6-foot-7 Allen had been through this process before, originally committing to Harvard in July. But when the finances didn't come through, he was forced to decommit in September, leaving him without a college.
"I'm not going to lie, I was disappointed," Allen said. "But everything happens for a reason. When one door closes, another opens."
With the summer season gone and no chance to showcase himself in front of college coaches and recruiters, Allen decided to make a few calls on his own.
"I had to be open to whoever else might be interested," Allen said. "There was a little anxiety. I wasn't sure where I was going.
The 17-year-old sharpshooter landed recruiting trips to Washington State and Northwestern. And while both left an impression on him, Allen left without signing.
"Washington State was real appealing," Allen said. "The fan base up there was crazy. Northwestern's academics are great. They are in the Big 10 and were right outside Chicago."
When prized recruits started making decisions, more schools began looking for prospects — opening more doors for Allen, as well as scholarship offers.
"When some schools didn't land who they wanted, my phone started ringing a lot more," Allen said.
That included a call from UCLA assistant coach Phil Matthews, who asked Allen to come down for a visit last weekend.
"I was a little shocked, but excited," said Allen, a four-year starter for the Chieftains and last year's Herald Player of the Year in basketball.
If the school's tradition didn't sell Allen, a comment from UCLA head coach Ben Howland did.
"He told me I can play here, that he believes in my abilities," Allen said. "Now I have to believe in myself. It's going to take some work. I'm willing to put in the time. I want to develop."
"What will make Noah good at the next level is he doesn't need to score 20 to make an impact," Alioto said. "He can make plays for other guys. That's what's going to make him effective at UCLA. He's the most skilled player at his age I've ever had."
That includes current Indiana Pacers rookie guard Orlando Johnson, who played under Alioto at Palma before becoming a record-setting scorer at UC Santa Barbara.
"Noah can score with a deep shot and has a good midrange jumper," Alioto said. "What he needs to learn is to live at the free throw line. He needs to go to the lane and get to the line."
During his visit, Allen spent time with the current core of Bruins, which includes the top recruiting freshman class in the nation.
"It was cool," Allen said. "They all want you to come to their school. They show you a good time."
While Allen has played all five positions at Palma, he was recruited as a small forward for UCLA, which finished 19-14 last year — 11-7 in the Pac-12.
"I will have to come in with a chip on my shoulder and show them something," Allen said.
While Allen is regarded as a perimeter shooter, he patterns his game after Magic Johnson and current Golden State point guard Stephen Curry.
"I like the way Magic passed the ball," Allen said. "I like to pass. I'd rather have 10 to 15 assists than 25 points. I have always felt that way."
Last season, Allen averaged six-plus assists and six rebounds a game.
"I remember in the seventh grade, he'd pass up 3-foot shots," Alioto said. "It would drive me bananas. He's so good off the dribble. If you press him, he's big enough to throw the 50-foot pass on the line. I think you'll see him attack the rim more. He's not a selfish player. But he needs to score for us."
Last year Allen averaged more than 18 points a game, including 23-plus in his final eight games, helping Palma reach the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
"I just want to win CCS," Allen said. "That's been our team goal since my freshman year. I realize I can't do it on my own. You need five guys on the court to win a championship. We have guys excited about basketball."
Allen didn't want the recruiting process being a distraction to the Chieftains' goals during the season.
"I wanted to get this done before the basketball season started," Allen said. "I told all the schools that. I think they understood. I didn't plan on going through this process twice. I'm definitely relieved that it's over."
John Devine can be reached at 646-4405 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @johnjdevine.