Dembele, a 6-foot-11 center, averaged 16 points and more than four blocks per game as a senior for Scotland Performance Institute (Chambersburg, Pa.), and his defensive potential makes him a solid addition for a program that is bereft of rim protectors at the moment.
A native of Mali who has been in the United States for a little over a year, Dembele is the first high school prospect to commit to UNLV under Menzies. He’s unrated by Rivals.com, and 247Sports.com ranks him as the No. 275 player in the country, but Dembele is viewed as a fast-rising prospect. He was receiving interest from good programs, and he had trimmed his list to 10 (Michigan State, Maryland, Syracuse, Iowa State, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Pittsburgh, Baylor and Missouri were the other finalists) before visiting UNLV last week and pledging to Menzies.
A few quick thoughts on Dembele’s decision and what it means for UNLV:
Dembele isn’t going to have the immediate impact of a one-and-done type like Stephen Zimmerman, but he’ll stick around a lot longer, and that stability is something the program needs right now. The Rebels lost every available big man after the season ended (Zimmerman and Chris Obekpa entered the draft, while Ben Carter transferred), so getting a commitment from Dembele helps stop the immediate bleeding.
That’s not to say he’s going to play right away. In fact, it may take a season (or two) of development before Dembele is ready to play a big role. But given what is available on the recruiting trail, and his internal options, Menzies has to feel pretty good about adding a promising 6-foot-11 swat machine who could end up giving the Rebels two or three years of solid defensive play.
Recruiting picking up
Menzies was put in a tough position, given how late in the recruiting process it was before he officially got the job, how tenuously committed the incoming freshman class was and how few official visits the school had. But he’s hit the ground running and managed to make good progress so far, as Dembele marks his third recruiting victory in two weeks (if you count Dwayne Morgan’s re-recruitment).
In addition to Morgan, Menzies also locked up juco wing Kris Clyburn last week. While it might take some time before Dembele is ready to contribute, Morgan and Clyburn will both be in the mix for the rotation next year. That’s an important factor to keep in mind as Menzies balances recruiting players for the long-term future as well as the fact that he needs to put a team on the floor next year.
Menzies says he’s an up-tempo coach at heart, but he had a ton of success at New Mexico State by recruiting big men of a certain profile (great size but with raw skills), coaching them into dominant post players and using them to beat up on the opposition. Does he see the same type of potential in Dembele?
Dembele certainly seems to have talent. He’s long, athletic for his size, and has impressively quick feet. Given Menzies’ track record, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Dembele carve out a nice career with the Rebels. He may not be a mock draft darling right now, but expect Dembele to reach his potential under Menzies.