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Reinhardt departing is lesson learned for Rice


#rebelforlife

Yeah. That lasted two months.

It was a hashtag that accompanied a tweet from Katin Reinhardt that refuted a Review-Journal article on the UNLV basketball team about rumors suggesting the freshman guard was considering a transfer.

Reinhardt even posted a short video clip to the tweet, making fun of the report by denying through a helium-generated voice that he was going anywhere.

Makes sense. The whole charade had a cartoon feel to it.

Reinhardt and his father (Ernie) wanted to control the news, and when someone beat them to it (R-J basketball beat writer Matt Youmans), they denied it at every opportunity.

Standard procedure, transparent and laughable as it might be.

People fell for it. Fans, mostly. Happens all the time. They want more than anything else to believe one of their own wouldn’t outright lie about considering such a move and then feel betrayed upon learning the truth.

But the player is gone now, taking with him the second-most shots and minutes on UNLV’s team last season.

It’s his right to leave, to seek a different role elsewhere. It doesn’t mean Reinhardt’s is a smart move or that his belief that playing more lead guard ultimately will land him where he wants. He’s farther away from the NBA today, at any position, than Neptune is to the sun.

What is important for UNLV, particularly coach Dave Rice, is the lessons that can be learned from the Reinhardt recruitment and impending fiasco of a true freshman who couldn’t defend much of anyone, was handed a green light to shoot and responded by bolting for what he and his father deem even more freedom.

Good luck with that. Finding a more prominent role than Reinhardt had at UNLV will be more difficult than getting his father to admit he had shopped his son to other schools long before official word of the transfer came Sunday.

(He did, by the way.)

Rice has said that he will do certain things differently in the coming seasons than over his first two, and perhaps that will include not allowing for the endless length of rope he granted a player such as Reinhardt.

It doesn’t mean UNLV shouldn’t continue to pursue and sign combo guards with the impressive resume Reinhardt brought from Mater Dei High, although when you consider that of the nine players ranked among the nation’s top 150 from the Santa Ana, Calif., prep basketball power since 2007, eight have changed colleges at least once, you would hope Rice’s car points him in another direction the next time.

Reinhardt’s role at UNLV, however, alienated and upset upperclassmen, as the favoritism shown him — whether real or perceived — was viewed as unfair and unearned by those who had been in the program much longer.

You can favor Anthony Bennett as a freshman. He can and should take the most shots. He’s going to be a high NBA lottery pick. Teammates get that. His play speaks for itself. You can recruit for years off Bennett’s one season at UNLV, and his name will land you good players for a long time.

But allowing Reinhardt such a role earned the Rebels nothing. Didn’t win them a league or tournament title. Didn’t win them an NCAA Tournament game. Didn’t win them squat to what’s important for what Rice believes is a Top 25 program. Won’t get them one recruit.

It’s a simple conclusion: Reinhardt was a recruiting miss, and a huge one when you consider how much faith Rice put in him and what little UNLV received from it.

I get why Rice recruited Reinhardt by offering him an image of Jimmer Fredette, likely knowing the player never had any chance of reaching the level of the former Brigham Young star, even over four years.

But you sell what’s hot, and Fredette’s senior season still was clear in the minds of prep players when Reinhardt reneged on a previous commitment to Southern California, the school he now reportedly will transfer to.

(Sensing a pattern here with him?)

The issue came after Reinhardt arrived. Rice might have landed him with stories of Jimmer Mania, but he needed to do a better job of preaching such things as team concepts and buying into a uniformed vision for the Rebels.

He didn’t. He never sat Reinhardt for long stretches when his erratic play demanded it. He never brought the hammer down on him.

The light was too green; the leash was way too long.

And still, the player left.

I don’t believe that could have been avoided, because it’s obvious father and son have a much different viewpoint about Katin’s skill level and where he best fits on the floor than, well, just about anyone else.

They knew he would play fewer minutes and receive fewer shots as a sophomore; they knew things would change as more and more athletic guards/wings became eligible.

He’s gone. It’s his right. But on the list of things Rice will re-evaluate before beginning a third season, his handling of Katin Reinhardt and the freedom he bestowed him should be among those things the coach most vehemently scrutinizes when putting pen to paper about those values he wants his program to represent.

Meanwhile, #rebelforlife has #hittheroad.

Something he and his father should know: Neptune is 2.8 billion miles from the sun.

#goodluckwiththat.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.