The first day of the early signing period is over, but recruiting season is far from finished. UNLV received signed letters of intent from two members of the Class of 2013 on Wednesday, but there’s still work to be done if the Rebels want to haul in another elite class.
UNLV could have four or possibly even five scholarship available next year, and right now they only have three spots filled. Seniors Justin Hawkins, Anthony Marshall and Quintrell Thomas are gone for sure, and junior Mike Moser is being treated as a senior because the coaching staff expects him to leave for the NBA.
And it’s early to start projecting the NBA lottery, but freshman Anthony Bennett is probably a 50/50 bet to be “one-and-done” as a college player. If he declares for the draft, the Rebels will have five open spots on next year’s team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the recruiting class of 2013 is shaping up so far.
SIGNED, SEALED, SOON TO BE DELIVERED
Chris Wood — Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), Forward, 6-foot-10 (video)
Wood has been in the fold for a while (he committed to UNLV in the summer of 2011), and he made things official by signing on Wednesday. He’s a long, active, athletic forward who runs the floor and creates mismatches when facing the basket. Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon compares him to a John Henson type. Wood is ranked No. 36 nationally by Rivals, and he’s having a great senior season, averaging 15.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He’s also improved defensively, becoming more active as a shot blocker. He’ll fit in nicely with the Rebels up-tempo system.
Jelan Kendrick — Indian Hills CC (Ottumwa, Iowa), Guard, 6-foot-8
A former McDonald’s All-American, Kendrick brings a ton of talent to Las Vegas. He also brings some baggage, as UNLV will be his fourth college stop (he’ll be eligible next year as a junior after signing his letter of intent on Wednesday). Kendrick has great size for a guard, and he’s even got the vision to play some point. He’ll definitely be in the mix to replace departing point guard Anthony Marshall, and if Rice and the coaching staff can keep him in check off the court, he could be a steal. Kendrick is having a productive season at Indian Hills CC, posting 14.0 points, 4.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds in four games so far.
Dantley Walker — Lincoln County (Panaca, Nev.), Guard, 6-foot-2 (video)
Walker can sometimes be the forgotten man in UNLV’s recruitng class, but the name should be familiar to locals. He’s the all-time leading scorer in Nevada history, and a former Parade All-American, but he gets lost in the shuffle because no one’s seen him play in two years. A member of the Class of 2011, Walker signed with UNLV out of high school but is currently serving a two-year Mormon mission. Rice thought he would be worth the wait, but it’ll be interesting to see how Walker fits into the team’s plans next year. He can certainly score — some of the shots he drains in this video are downright ridiculous (I’m loving the running 3-pointer at the 2:10 mark) — and we know Rice loves players who can score at a fast pace.
WAITING FOR A COMMITMENT
Isaac Hamilton — St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), Guard, 6-foot-5 (video)
Hamilton was in town for an official visit last weekend, and he took in the Rebels’ season-opening win over Northern Arizona. At the time of the visit, he placed UNLV, Baylor and UTEP as the schools he was choosing from, but there have since been reports that UCLA and UConn are back on his radar. Ranked No. 16 by Rivals, Hamilton would be a home run for Rice and his staff. An explosive scorer with point guard skills, he would thrive running the fast break, and he’d be ready for big minutes right away as a freshman. My sources lead me to believe that UNLV is currently the slight favorite, but Hamilton says he may not make a decision until the April signing period. A lot can happen between now and then, especially if he continues taking visits. I’d say there’s better than a 50/50 chance he ends up in Vegas when all is said and done.
Jermaine Lawrence — Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.), Forward, 6-foot-9 (video)
A bouncy swing forward with good footwork and a strong inside game, Lawrence actually reminds me a bit of Mike Moser. Lawrence is working on improving his perimeter skills this season, but at the college level I think he’ll be at his best when he plays around the rim. Last week he cut his list to four schools, and he’ll be choosing between Cincinnati, St. John’s Syracuse and UNLV sometime in the spring. I’d say the Rebels are further along with Hamilton at the moment, but that’s largely because Lawrence hasn’t visited yet. Landing both Hamilton and Lawrence (if a fifth scholarship becomes available) would be a master stroke of recruiting rivaling last year’s Bennett-Reinhardt-Goodman haul. Lawrence is ranked No. 21 by Rivals.
DeShaun Morman — Faith Baptist Christian (Washington, D.C.), Guard, 6-foot-4 (video)
If the Rebels end up with four or five open spots for next year and Hamilton and Lawrence sign elsewhere, there will be some holes to fill. Morman is a guy that could end up in Las Vegas if that scenario unfolds, and he wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize, as he’s ranked No. 125 by Rivals. As springy left-handed guard with penetration ability, the Anthony Marshall comparisons are almost too easy. Morman averaged 15.2 points per game as a junior last year.
Kendall Smith — Deer Valley (Antioch, Calif.), Guard, 6-foot-2 (video)
Another athletic guard, Smith is more of a distributor than a scorer. He took reportedly took an unofficial visit to UNLV over the summer, but he’s a late bloomer who is still waiting for offers before he makes a decision. He averaged 16.6 points and 9.1 assists per game as a junior, and he had a great summer while playing for one of the nation’s best AAU teams.
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