California schools Santa Clara, Pepperdine and Stanford recruited Rex Walters during his senior year at San Jose Piedmont Hills High School.
Cal-Berkeley did not.
"They never sent a letter. They had basically no interest," said Walters, who eventually picked the only school in the Midwest that recruited him -- Northwestern. He transferred to Kansas after two seasons and now prepares to play a team he followed as a youth.
KU will meet California at approximately 9:30 p.m. Thursday in an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game at the St. Louis Arena. The winner will face either Indiana or Louisville at 5 p.m. Saturday.
"I'd have loved to to go Cal and play for coach Campanelli," said Walters, referring to Lou Campanelli, who was fired and replaced by assistant coach Todd Bozeman midway through the season. "During my recruiting, West Coast basketball was not very good. All of a sudden it's re-emerged. UCLA almost beat Michigan. Santa Clara beat Arizona. Stanford has been very good. Jason Kidd signs wth Cal last year and the Bay Area goes nuts."
Kidd chose Cal over Kansas and supposedly, the NBA. It's been said Kidd was good enough to go straight to the pros.
"HE'S THE MOST publicized player ever in the Bay Area," Walters said. "There have been some good players -- Terrance Mullins, Calvin Byrd, J.R. Rider. None got the same hype or publicity as Jason. He's brought Bay Area basketball to another level. It's amazing. He's been on more talk shows than any player. He's as big as Joe Montana, and that's scary."
Walters played against Kidd once, when he was a prep senior and Kidd just a freshman at Alameda St. Joseph's High.
"He doesn't even remember," said Walters, not divulging how either player performed in the game. "You could tell he'd be a great college player.
"He has a big-time body," he added, referring to Kidd's 6-4, 205-pound frame. Walters is 6-4, 190. "He's best in the open court, getting the ball to the other players. They've got finishers in guys like Grigsby (Alfred, 6-9 sophomore) and Hendrick (Brian, 6-9 senior). Jason is the distributor."
Kidd averages 13 points a game and 7.3 assists; Walters 15 points and 4.2 assists. Walters said he'd have welcomed Kidd had Kidd chosen KU instead of Cal.
"We hoped he'd come here," Walters said. "But maybe the situation was not as good for him. He played a lot at Cal this year. He knew he'd be the man. I'm not saying he's not good enough to start here, but we have a lot of things you need to learn. We have a lot of set plays. Cal seems to get it and go. It'd have been a little more difficult for him.
"IF HE WAS here, no question we'd have the best backcourt in the country. With Adonis, Steve Woodberry, myself and Jason, we'd have been like a military. We'd send units on the court."
Walters emerged for KU during its first- and second-round games last week in Chicago. He had 23 points against Ball State and a career-high 28 versus Brigham Young. He also deflected some attention from his teammates by ripping CBS announcer Mike Francesa for saying KU would be upset early in the tourney. Walters says he has no regrets about anything he said.
"Everything I said I felt was true. He thought we'd go home packing," Walters said. "I took that as an insult, something against me and my teammates.
"Also it does look like he's never played basketball," he added, referring to Francesa's portly build.