Rice hiring sparks buzz among recruits

It might be a while before any of the top local high school players in the 2012 class decide where they will play college basketball.

But their reaction Sunday to the news that Dave Rice had been hired as UNLV's coach was positive, and resoundingly so.

"It's been a good day for us," said Ben Carter, a junior forward at Bishop Gorman. "(Rice) is a great coach, he knows his X's and O's and he really knows basketball."

The recruiting world never stops turning, as evidenced by the dozens of teams that packed Gorman's gyms Sunday for the final day of the Fullcourt Press Easter Classic.

Rice's hiring sent a buzz through the event that excited players and parents. The former Brigham Young associate head coach is the older brother of Gorman coach Grant Rice.

"I haven't talked to coach (Dave) Rice about it yet, but it's a great opportunity for him," Gorman junior swingman Shabazz Muhammad said. "(Grant) Rice looks out for us, and with his brother being the coach, that's a good opportunity for him."

Muhammad, a consensus top five talent in the 2012 class, was the brightest star of the tournament in leading Dream Vision (Calif.) to the championship.

Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, called recruiting for Shabazz and his younger brother, sophomore guard Rashad Muhammad, "both wide open."

Shabazz is looking at scholarship offers from Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, UCLA, Kansas, Washington and UNLV, while Rashad is beginning to rise on the recruiting landscape.

Holmes said his family was excited by the hire.

"They were all rooting for him to get the job because they have a relationship with Grant Rice," said Holmes, a star player at Southern California in the 1980s. "We don't know Dave as well, but he's Grant's brother, so we hold him in high esteem."

In addition to the 6-foot-8-inch Carter and the 6-6 Shabazz Muhammad, Gorman's loaded 2012 class also includes major Division I prospects Rosco Allen, a 6-9 small forward, and Demetris Morant, a 6-9 power forward.

Carter's first scholarship offer came from Dave Rice while he was at BYU, and he called the new Rebels' coach "a good friend."

Carter said Dave Rice should be appealing to prospects based on his reputation for an up-tempo system.

"Who doesn't like to score?" Carter said with a smile.

It remains to be seen whether two incoming UNLV recruits in the 2013 class will continue as planned.

Before coach Lon Kruger left for Oklahoma on April 1, UNLV secured commitments from Findlay Prep sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss and Lincoln County senior guard Dantley Walker.

Walker planned to sign with UNLV during his official visit next weekend before embarking on a two-year Mormon mission in August.

Walker's father, Greg, said his son hopes to stay with UNLV, though they are waiting for word from Dave Rice. Official visits to Utah State and Utah Valley have been discussed as well.

Dave Rice has long been interested in Dantley Walker, the state's all-time leading scorer with 3,304 points. He attended a game in Walker's junior season.

"Dantley really likes (Dave) Rice and I like him," Greg Walker said. "Rice has wanted him for three years. We were kind of hoping he would get it."

Williams-Goss could not be reached for comment. Findlay assistant Todd Simon said all the Pilots' underclassmen, including UNLV recruiting target junior forward Anthony Bennett, will begin forming relationships with Dave Rice.

"Kids commit to coaches these days more than programs, and I'm sure they'll go through the process of developing that relationship," Simon said. "Dave will put the time in to do that, so we'll see where it goes."

Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.