Let’s jump right in:
For those of us that do not live in LV, what is the community’s view on the state of the program? And of Marvin Menzies? @MikeGrimala
— Kris (@genuinely_yours) August 4, 2016
Obviously I can’t speak for all fans, and not every fan thinks the same way. But if I were to paint with broad strokes, I’d say that most fans were embarrassed to some degree by the coaching search, and that’s understandable. In college sports, the coach is the program, and UNLV couldn’t seem to nail one down. Getting turned down in public is embarrassing.
When Marvin Menzies was hired, I think a segment of the fans were happy to have a coach who wanted to be at UNLV, while the rest were underwhelmed with the hire. But now that we’ve moved past those knee-jerk opinions, I think most fans have come around and are willing to give Menzies a chance. From what I can tell from my interactions with the base, I think UNLV fans are now being realistic about the state of the program. Long-term rebuilding projects usually don’t whip fans into a frenzy, and this is no different. But I think the fans are willing to accept the growing pains and give Menzies time to build something substantial.
@MikeGrimala …. and when we are going to start recruiting locally and the left coast instead of Chicago kids.
— Brian Carter (@brainCarter) August 4, 2016
The Rebels are making a bid for local players in the Class of 2017, headlined by superstars Troy Brown and Charles O’Bannon. UNLV is in Brown’s final eight, and O’Bannon could still be in play as well. It’s not likely they’ll land either player, but Menzies is jumping in with both feet in an attempt to get in the race, as evidenced by his constant presence at their games two weeks ago during the AAU festivities in Las Vegas.
As for the west coast pipeline, that likely won’t start pumping until 2018. The 2016 class was mostly already committed when Menzies got the job (which is why they leaned so hard on assistant coach Rob Jeter and his Chicago ties to bring in players on short notice), and it’s too late to start building relationships with top tier out-of-state prospects in the Class of 2017. But Menzies is a good recruiter with longstanding connections in California, so expect him to start reaching into the SoCal market as soon as it becomes feasible. To me, that will be 2018. UNLV has offered a bunch of top Cali recruits in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and I’d expect Menzies to land a few of them.
That’s the plan, anyway. If that starts happening and real talent starts flowing into Las Vegas again, the Rebels can start knocking on the door of the NCAA tournament.
@MikeGrimala Also, coach used the international pipeline to recruit players to New Mexico State. Is it still an option for the program?
— Cedric M (@oohwakamuu) August 4, 2016
I think it’s still an option, simply because Menzies has utilized that avenue before and he knows how to do it. But he’s said several times that the way he recruited at New Mexico State won’t be the way he recruits at UNLV. I expect that to mean significantly fewer true international players, because at UNLV Menzies will have the resources to go after top American players.
With that being said, Menzies did add a couple of international-ish prospects this year. Djordjije Sljivancanin (Ukraine) and Cheickna Dembele (Mali) are both 2016 players from foreign countries who played less than a year apiece in the United States before committing to UNLV. So while they may not be true “international” prospects, it looks like Menzies did dip into his old bag of tricks a bit with those two additions.
— ΘΦΘ (@jerrysp702) August 4, 2016
You’ve got me there. Sljivancanin is the only incoming recruit whose game tape I had trouble tracking down when I did my Recruit Breakdown series earlier this summer. So while I can tell you that Dembele is raw offensively and that Ben Coupet is a versatile defender, I’m at a loss when it comes to Sljivancanin. It’s not a great answer for a mailbag, but all I can say is, “I don’t know.” He is a man of mystery.
— Rebel Reign (@RebelReign1) August 5, 2016
You are correct. Right now, it’s worse. When Lon Kruger left, Dave Rice inherited a team with some recent NCAA success, a workable roster and a general sense of goodwill among the fan base. When Menzies took over, he had none of those things. Menzies could very well overcome those obstacles and successfully rebuild the program, but he’s starting from a much lower point than Dave Rice.
@MikeGrimala Who’d win in a fight between Menzies and Rice?
— Michael Foley (@m1foley) August 4, 2016
Menzies seems more passionate, and a little fire in the belly can go a long way in a street fight. But legend has it Rice once punted a basketball into the Mendenhall Center rafters during a closed practice, so he’s no pushover. If we’re talking MMA, I go with Menzies. If it’s a boxing match, Rice has the reach and the upper hand.