It took more than a year for UNLV’s recruiting class to come together. As soon as Jordan Cornish put the finishing touch on it, his first phone call was to a close friend halfway across the country.
Rashad Vaughn, the Rebels’ highest-ranked incoming recruit, also proved to be a valuable recruiter.
“Rashad said, ‘We need to play together,’ ” Cornish said. “I talked to him (Monday) night when me and my family decided this was best for me.”
Cornish, a 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard from Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, made his official announcement Tuesday and signed a scholarship agreement with UNLV.
With the commitment from Cornish, the Rebels’ recruiting class ranks in college basketball’s top five, according to Rivals.com. Cornish is the fifth freshman to sign with coach Dave Rice, who is rebuilding the program’s future during another whirlwind offseason.
“Great players want to play with great players,” Cornish said. “Kentucky has had success with the freshmen thing. We want to bring UNLV back to the heydays of the late 1980s and early ’90s.”
Vaughn, a 6-6 shooting guard from Findlay Prep and the nation’s No. 8-ranked player in the class of 2014, committed in February.
The first to commit to the Rebels last spring was Dwayne Morgan, a 6-7 small forward from Baltimore. Goodluck Okonoboh, a 6-9 power forward from Wilbraham, Mass., followed in October. Morgan, ranked No. 15 by Rivals, and Okonoboh, ranked No. 31, signed in the fall. Patrick McCaw, a 6-6 shooting guard from Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., committed in April.
After a 20-13 season in which UNLV missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Rice’s three years, he promised changes, and delivered.
The Rebels are welcoming eight newcomers, including two senior point guard transfers, Cody Doolin from the University of San Francisco and Jerome Seagears from Rutgers. Ben Carter, a 6-8 junior forward, recently transferred from Oregon to UNLV and must sit out the 2014-15 season as a redshirt.
“The opportunity to play with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, it’s a blessing,” said Cornish, who also considered Nebraska and Wake Forest.
Cornish committed to Tennessee a year ago and signed in the fall, but he was released from his letter of intent after Cuonzo Martin left the Volunteers in mid-April to take the coaching job at California.
UNLV assistant coach Ryan Miller, who spent last season at Auburn, was the lead recruiter because of his past connection with Cornish. Vaughn and Cornish struck up a relationship when they played with and against each other on the summer circuit.
“Me and Rashad are great friends. We talked every day, even when I was committed to Tennessee,” Cornish said. “I was looking for a place that felt like home with a great coaching staff, and a place where I can develop and ultimately reach my goal, which is to get to the NBA.”
Cornish, a physical 215-pounder, averaged 20.9 points and 10.7 rebounds last season and was Most Valuable Player of the Louisiana state all-star game. He said the Rebels’ coaches plan to play him with Vaughn on opposite wings.
UNLV is one over the scholarship limit of 13, but point guard Deville Smith’s status is in limbo. Smith, who started 18 games as a junior, has left campus and returned to his hometown of Jackson, Miss.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.