Reinhardt’s pledge to UNLV could reap benefits for years

When it comes to UNLV’s 2012 recruiting class, which is now 60 percent complete,it’s important to think of the big picture.

The big picture involves how Dave Rice’s first recruiting class as UNLV’s head coach will set the tone for classes to come.

That said, no matter what comes of the Shabazz Muhammad sweepstakes this spring, it could be argued that UNLV’s most important 2012 recruit is one who made it official Wednesday by signing a national letter of intent. Katin Reinhardt joined Baltimore guard Daquan Cook and Bishop Gorman forward Demetris Morant as the first three to officially put the pen to paper, leaving Rice with two scholarships to fill to complete the haul.

Rice sees the sweet-shooting 6-foot-5 Reinhardt as a point guard in his system, very much in the mold of his most famous former pupil, Jimmer Fredette, who thrived at BYU under Rice’s tutelage.

But beyond a shooting range that extends to around 30 feet, his quickness, his top-level athleticism or his tantalizing ball-handling skills, Reinhardt has something else that could prove valuable as a recruiting chip in the future: He’s an elite prospect from Southern California.

Yes, the 2012 senior class in Las Vegas, between the wealth of prospects at Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep, is stacked. But let’s all be real for a moment: A class like this will likely never happen again here. In Southern California, though? It comes along almost every year.

“I would say that when you’re at UNLV, your home recruiting turf is not just Las Vegas, but it’s also Southern California,” Rice says, “Because one thing we can learn from history is that when UNLV has been good, Southern California hasbeen a big part of that equation.”

Reinhardt, who ranks as the No. 45 overall prospect in the 2012 class, chose UNLV over the likes of Texas, Baylor, North Carolina State, Gonzaga, West Virginia, St. John’s and Syracuse. His pledge came just as 6-foot-5 USC transfer Bryce Jones arrived on campus for his redshirt year.

“It was a monumental recruiting job for our staff to get Bryce Jones to transfer here, because he was, in our estimation, the top perimeter guy available when we got this job,” Rice said. “Now we’ve gotten the top perimeter guy from L.A. this year. We’ve gotten the top two perimeter guys from L.A. (for two straight years), and that’s a huge deal.”

Reinhardt not only is from the fertile hoops territory that is Southern California, but he is entering his senior season at Mater Dei, which over the years has proven to be a factory that churns out Division-I recruits.

“Since I’ve committed, I know a few players on my team are now like, ‘I want to be recruited by UNLV,’” Reinhardt said, referring to guys such as junior guard Elijah Brown and sophomore forward Stanley Johnson, a couple of four-star recruits already being pursued by several high-major programs.

Jones and Reinhardt are hardly UNLV’s lone scores in recent years from the Los Angeles area. Rebel seniors Chace Stanback (a UCLA transfer) and Oscar Bellfield were notable recruits that former UNLV coach Lon Kruger lured to the desert, but Reinhardt, by far, carries the most buzz coming in and turned many more heads nationally with his decision.

He pointed out the short distance from L.A., UNLV’s basketball history and all of the other selling points that Rice and his staff can bring to the table. But there’s also the staff itself.

Assistant coach Stacey Augmon—a Pasadena, Calif., native—is one of the greatest players to ever put on a UNLV uniform, and followed it up with a 16-year NBA career, which gives him plenty of cache with recruits. Associate head coach Justin Hutson is one of the West Coast’s top recruiters, and he was one of the key architects behind San Diego State’s breakthrough run to the Sweet 16 a year ago.

And, of course, there’s Rice.

“He’s a really likeable guy, and he wasn’t overly aggressive,” Reinhardt said. “He said, ‘I know you’re getting recruited by this, this, this and that. I hope we have a chance. I’m going to leave it up to you. If we have a chance to recruit you, would you call me back?’

“He left that up to me, and when I opened that door, I got to know more and more about him. His whole offensive mind, the way he runs things, I think that stood out to me a lot.”

Now all that’s left for Jones and Reinhardt to do is, well, succeed.

Jones projects out as a starter for UNLV either at shooting guard or small forward next season. An explosive athlete, he could be the Rebels’ best NBA prospect in several years.

Reinhardt likely won’t get the offensive freedom in Rice’s system that Fredette had as a senior, but he’ll be a confident, energetic spark who will be a fan favorite the day he steps on campus.

If projections become reality, UNLV’s stake in the SoCal talent pool can only go deeper.

“We know how good of a player Bryce Jones is going to be a year from now, how good Katin Reinhardt will be for us a year from now,” Rice said. “Tangible evidence really speaks volumes.”

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