The Toledo men's basketball team will soon have a local feel.
A program that has struggled in recent years to keep northwest Ohio talent home landed commitments from two of the area's most heralded prospects Sunday.
Napoleon guard Jordan Lauf and Vanlue center Zach Garber verbally committed to the Rockets, becoming the first two players to join coach Tod Kowalczyk's 2013 recruiting class.
"It's going to be great for the school, great for the program," Lauf said. "I think Toledo's going to be buzzing here the next few years."
Both players were highly recruited by mid-major programs, holding offers from Bowling Green State University and Ohio among others. But for the two AAU teammates, the opportunity to become cornerstones for a rising nearby program that doggedly pursued them proved the ultimate sell.
"It just felt right," Garber said. "The coaches have always treated me like a priority. Me and Jordan, they always talked to us in a group. They said how they need to get excitement back up in the basketball program and get back to the winning ways. They made us feel most wanted there."
Lauf and Garber were two of the stars in the area's loaded junior class last season. Lauf, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who is Napoleon's first D-I recruit since Barry Sonnenberg joined UT in 1981, led the Northern Lakes League in scoring with 21.9 points and was second with 9.6 rebounds. Garber, a 6-foot-9 post ranked by ESPN.com as Ohio's 18th-best player in his class, averaged 19.7 points and 12.1 rebounds.
The two friends, who plan to be roommates at Toledo, said they have leaned toward UT since making a joint visit to the campus last season. Both believe in the program's direction and Kowalczyk, who led the Rockets to 19 wins last season -- a 15-game turnaround from his first year.
When Lauf sent Garber a text message Saturday asking if he was ready to commit, the discussion did not last long.
"We felt the same way about UT, and that's how we felt all summer about it, so we kind of made an executive decision together to pull the trigger," Lauf said.
Lauf said he was looking for "a place to call home." He and Garber, who play on the same AAU team as top area recruits Marc Loving of St. John's Jesuit and Whitmer's Nigel Hayes, found it just up the road.
"We're hoping to get great support from where we're from as well as northwest Ohio," Lauf said. "Both of us committing together and becoming like a package deal, I think it's going to be great."