When Marvin Menzies took the reins of the UNLV basketball program in April, there were two scholarship players left on the roster and a whole lot of vacancies to fill in order to field a team for the 2016-17 season. So finding short-term solutions became the priority, and to their credit, Menzies and his staff did a pretty good job of assembling next year’s Rebels on the fly.
Now that the 16-17 squad is largely finalized, Menzies has turned his attention to the program’s long-term recruiting needs. And after a busy July that featured a string of high-profile AAU tournaments (including a buffet of events in Las Vegas this past weekend), we have a clearer picture of how Menzies is planning to approach recruiting.
Like he told RunRebs last week, the top players in the Class of 2017 mostly have to be written off at this point. Menzies took over too late to build any momentum with those type of blue-chip players, who usually plan to announce their decisions before their senior season of high school begins. But there is one segment of the 2017 class that Menzies apparently believes is still worth pursuing—the locals.
Menzies and his staff were present at just about every game that featured top Las Vegas talent last week, with a heavy emphasis on the top two players in state, Centennial point guard Troy Brown and Bishop Gorman wing Charles O’Bannon. Both are Top 30 caliber players according to most rankings, with Brown skewing closer to the Top 10. And Brown told RunRebs that Menzies has done an impressive job of jumping into his recruitment.
“Coming in with them having a new coaching staff, I didn’t think I was going to get to know them very well,” Brown said. “But they’ve been very open to my process. They’ve been talking to me a lot and getting to know me as a person instead of just as a basketball player.”
While non-local 2017 superstars like Trevon Duval have pretty much moved on from considering UNLV, the classes of 2018, 2019 and even 2020 are different. UNLV will have ample time to expand beyond the city limits to recruit those players before they make up their minds, and the Rebels’ staff spent the month of July being extremely aggressive in making early scholarship offers to the most talented prospects in those future classes.
The Rebels appeared to put a particular emphasis on the southern California area, which makes sense, as Menzies and assistant coach Eric Brown have longstanding ties to the SoCal prep basketball scene. They offered several elite players from the region, including 2018 guard Jules Bernard, 2018 forward Marvin Bagley, 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley, 2019 center Onyeka Okongwu, 2019 guard Cassius Stanley and 2020 guard Jalen Green.
Bagley is the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, while Bernard is a consensus Top 50 player. Okongwu and Mobley both play for the Compton Magic AAU program and were among the most impressive players at last week’s Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas. Stanley is rated as a Top 10 player in his class by ESPN.
Mobley told RunRebs that he’s interested in UNLV and hopes to take an unofficial visit to campus.
“I’m looking at all my schools evenly,” Mobley said. “I’m very thankful and blessed to have received an offer from UNLV, and I think they’re a great program. Obviously you see what they’ve done in the past and I love their facilities.
“I’ve taken [unofficial visits] to UCLA, USC and Arizona State,” he continued, “and I would love to take an unofficial to UNLV.”
Mobley serves as a good example of the Rebels getting in early on a promising prospect who is still actually open to considering UNLV. That’s a good thing. It may not happen as immediately as some fans would like, but if the base employs a little patience and gives Menzies a couple recruiting cycles, talented recruits could once again start flowing into the program.
That’s the plan, anyway.