P.J. Washington Has UNLV in Final Three

PJ WashingtonCould UNLV be on the verge of snagging a blue-chip recruit?

Class of 2017 P.J. Washington trimmed his college list to three on Thursday, and UNLV made the cut, along with Kentucky and North Carolina:

UNLV may look a bit out of place on that list, as the Rebels in their current state pale in comparison to Kentucky and North Carolina (Nos. 4 and 6 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll). But merely being considered alongside those powerhouse programs should be seen as a good sign for Marvin Menzies’ rebuilding efforts.

Washington is certainly a player worth getting excited about, as the 6-foot-7 power forward averaged 16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 blocks per game at Findlay Prep last year as a junior. He is ranked as the No. 16 player in the country by ESPN, and Rivals has him at No. 21.

Washington has already taken official visits to North Carolina and Kentucky, and he’s reportedly scheduled to visit UNLV on the weekend of Nov. 4.

A few quick thoughts on Washington’s recruitment and what it means for UNLV:

Findlay focus
The fact that Menzies has been able to establish a relationship with a top Findlay Prep prospect so quickly is an important development. Findlay produces as much (if not more) college talent than any high school in the country, and it’s right in UNLV’s backyard, so it’s an important feeder program for the Rebels. Dave Rice did a good job recruiting from Findlay (Anthony Bennett, Chris Wood, Rashad Vaughn), and the opportunity is there to continue the pipeline if Menzies can take advantage of it. With the pursuit of Washington going right down to the wire, it looks like Menzies will.

Talent first
At first glance, Washington may not appear to be a perfect fit for the Rebels’ roster, as they’ve got a similar inside-out swing forward in promising freshman Troy Baxter. But given the state of the rebuilding process, UNLV can’t afford to be parsing positions on the recruiting trail—talent trumps all other considerations, and Washington qualifies. Menzies’ first priority has to be bringing in as many good players as possible and figuring out the rest later. If he ends up with two similar players on the roster, so be it. If a current player gets recruited over, so be it. Right now, Washington would dramatically upgrade the team’s overall talent level, and that’s why Menzies is going after him.

Class of 2017 outlook
UNLV is set to lose three seniors after this season (Tyrell Green, Christian Jones and Uche Ofoegbu), so there will be at least that many open scholarships to fill with incoming recruits from the class of 2017. If Washington were to commit, the Rebels would still have two openings with which to pursue their other top targets (including Centennial guard Troy Brown). I’m sure Menzies would like to get one or two of those spots filled during the early signing period, but if that doesn’t happen, look for the Rebels to continue working their hot spots—Southern California, Chicago/Milwaukee and the northern Atlantic states—as they attempt to build next year’s freshman class.

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