Justin Hutson

Rebel Builder

UNLV associate head basketball coach Justin Hutson is many things—a defensive strategist, a film-room buff, an X’s and O’s mind—but at his core he’s a builder.

Hutson’s most publicized role at UNLV is that of the master recruiter, the guy largely responsible for bringing in some of the most talented players Las Vegas has seen since the Rebel glory days of the early 1990s. And in less than two years on the job, Hutson’s haul of high school stars has helped propel the Rebels back into the national spotlight.

It’s a trait that should make him a hot name in coaching circles before long. Coaches who can bring in talent tend to move up in the college game, and the 41-year-old’s next job could be at the helm of his own program.

What makes him such a powerful recruiter? As a self-described “cerebral player” at Cal State Bakersfield from 1992-94, one of Hutson’s strengths was relating to his teammates and reading other players, skills that help him bond with high school phenoms today.

Hutson has used that blueprint to build one of the most impressive résumés of any assistant coach in the country.

He began to develop his reputation as a great recruiter at his previous post, bringing NBA-level players such as first-round pick Kawhi Leonard and reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin to San Diego State, and that rep has only been enhanced during his time at UNLV. Since joining Dave Rice’s staff in 2011, he’s helped the Rebels to a 37-10 record, including this season’s 15-4 mark.

Hutson was instrumental in securing the Rebels’ best recruiting class in two decades, mining his native California for freshman sharpshooter Katin Reinhardt and helping convince future NBA lottery pick and Findlay Prep product Anthony Bennett to stay in Las Vegas.

“When I got recruited by him, we had a lot of good conversations,” Reinhardt says. “He was great about building that relationship with me and continuing it even after I got here.”

Hutson says he hasn’t gotten any head-coaching feelers yet, but running his own program one day is his goal. And with the way he can bring in talent, it seems like just a matter of time before he gets his chance.

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