Despite the ugly nature of Saturday’s home loss to Fresno State, it looks like at least one person was impressed by the Rebels.
Junior college point guard DeVille Smith attended the game as part of an official visit to UNLV, and Future150.com reported on Sunday that Smith has verbally committed to the Rebels. Several local outlets have since confirmed the report, so it looks like Smith will indeed be coming to Las Vegas next year.
An extremely athletic Mississippi native, Smith originally committed to Mississippi State as part of the Class of 2011. He played one season for the Bulldogs, averaging 4.2 points and 1.9 assists in 13.0 minutes per game, and appeared to be one of the SEC’s more promising young playmakers (you can see a highlight video here). But when Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury retired after that season, Smith decided to transfer.
That brought him to Southwest Mississippi Community College this season, where he averaged 16.0 points and 4.9 assists per game. Smith shot 49.6 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 80.7 percent from the free throw line.
Smith will be eligible to play for UNLV at the beginning of next season, and he’ll have two full years of eligibility remaining.
So what does Smith’s commitment mean for the program? Let’s examine some of the key takeways:
Curtains on 2013 class?
Most immediately, this news likely wraps up the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class, which is now five deep (including DeVille Smith): high school forward Chris Wood, high school guard Kendall Smith, juco guard Jelan Kendrick and high school guard Dantley Walker (who will be returning from a two-year LDS mission). With Anthony Bennett a lock to declare for the NBA draft, and Mike Moser expected to join him, that would give the Rebels five available scholarships and now five players to fill them. A late recruit could be added in the summer (much like Savon Goodman last year), but only if one of the current players decides to transfer. For now, it looks like the 2013 roster is set.
Right to the point
For those who are wondering how UNLV will replace Anthony Marshall next year, this may be your answer, as I think it’s very possible that Smith opens next season as the Rebels’ starting point guard. There could be as many as five players in the mix at the point, but the other options are either too young and inexperienced (Daquan Cook, Kendall Smith) or more suited to other positions (Katin Reinhardt, Jelan Kendrick). DeVille Smith could step in right away and handle the Rebels’ system at both ends of the floor, and he fits the up-tempo style of play that Dave Rice always talks about.
In addition to his athleticism, Smith’s shooting ability should add another dimension to the Rebels’ offense. Current point guard Anthony Marshall is having the best shooting season of his career (47.0 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from 3-point range, 67.9 from the FT line), but Smith is a potential 50/40/80 player. Pairing him with a more experienced, more confident version of Katin Reinhardt next year should give the Rebels a deadly backcourt combination.
Transfer of power
There are many schools of thought when it comes to accepting transfer players, but Dave Rice is clearly of the belief that they are valuable assets. Next year’s UNLV team will have at least five players who started their collegiate careers elsewhere: Khem Birch (Pitt), Bryce Dejean-Jones (USC), Roscoe Smith (UConn), Jelan Kendrick (Memphis, Ole Miss) and now DeVille Smith. Birch and Dejean-Jones are already productive starters, and Roscoe Smith and DeVille Smith will certainly be candidates for the starting five next season. That means 80 percent of the starting lineup could be made up of transfers, but as long as this approach keeps working, expect Rice to continue recruiting guys on the rebound.
Follow Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates.