Dave Rice has won at least 25 games in each of his first two years as head coach at UNLV, but a case can be made that his greatest successes have come on the recruiting trail.
In his short stint leading the program, Rice has expanded the Rebels’ recruiting reach to a national level and turned UNLV into a destination for top prospects. The culmination of those efforts came in June, when former Rebel Anthony Bennett was selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft after just one year at UNLV.
In March, the Rebels staff went into Baltimore and got a commitment from Top-20 senior Dwayne Morgan, beating out hometown favorites Maryland and Georgetown. And just last month, they went to Massachusetts to get a commitment from Goodluck Okonoboh, the No. 2 center in the Class of 2014. That’s recruiting reach.
Much of the appeal is tied into Rice and his style of play. Young players relate to his approach and want to play in his up-and-down, full-court system. And post-Bennett, they know it can lead to NBA riches.
“I feel like UNLV is going in a great direction,” Morgan says. “We’ve got some great, athletic players, and more coming on the way. It seems like UNLV is getting back to how the Runnin’ Rebels used to be, running and gunning and being an athletic team. I’m just excited to see how it feels when the Thomas & Mack is rocking in full force.”
The next wave of Rebels recruits could be even more impressive. The staff is hot on the heels of top 2014 shooting guard Rashad Vaughn of Henderson’s Findlay Prep, and 2015 Bishop Gorman center Stephen Zimmerman (the No. 2 prospect in the nation) is also considering UNLV.
If Rice can continue stocking the roster with elite prospects like Morgan and Okonoboh, it should only be a matter of time before the recruiting success translates into success on the court in March.