Top prospect Hamga to take look at UNLV

If he wants to play right away and develop his skills over four years, 7-foot Beas Hamga should like what he sees on his visit to UNLV this weekend.

Rebels coach Lon Kruger has earned a reputation for developing big men. Hamga, from Decatur Christian, a private school in Illinois, is the biggest recruit remaining in the class of 2007.

Hamga is taking his first official visit to UNLV today, and plenty of schools are lining up to be next.

"Everybody in the country has offered. He probably has 100 offers," said Decatur Christian coach Al Huss, who listed Florida, Kentucky, Connecticut and Indiana as other contenders to sign Hamga.

Huss said UNLV has a legitimate shot at Hamga and that Kentucky is making a serious push to sign him.

Hamga, who turns 19 in July, is ranked by as one of the top 40 players in the class of 2008. But he is on schedule to graduate this summer and plans to enroll in college a year ahead of schedule.

"He's excited about coming out to Las Vegas," said Huss, who played for Rebels assistant coach Greg Grensing at Creighton.

In the offseason, Hamga lives in Bloomington, Ind., with his guardian, Mark Adams, who knows Kruger and is familiar with UNLV's program.

Hamga speaks frequently with fellow Cameroon native Gaston Essengue, who just finished his senior season for the Rebels.

Essengue offers a good example for Hamga. In his two years at UNLV, Essengue developed from a junior backup to a 31-game starter at center for a team that finished 30-7 and reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

"You look at a kid like Gaston and see what he's done in his two years," Huss said. "If Beas makes the same kind of progress in four years that Gaston made in two, Beas is going to be in the NBA.

"He's a good player now, but it's what he can be. What separates him from a lot of foreign kids is he has the raw ability to be a very good offensive player."

Huss said the 225-pound Hamga, who has a 9-foot-7-inch reach, is an athletic defender similar to former Rebels center Joel Anthony.

UNLV's coaching staff has had success developing big men such as Anthony, Essengue, Wendell White and Louis Amundson.

"Our objective as a staff is to work with young people to help them realize their potential. I know that we spend a ton of time with our guys," Kruger said.

"Louis, Wendell, Gaston and Joel all have a terrific work ethic. You can help guys progress to a certain point, but they have to work at it."

Kruger has one scholarship left for this year's class. With the departures of Anthony, Essengue and White, Kruger put a priority on recruiting a center who can play immediately.

Hamga originally committed to Iowa, but he reopened his recruitment when coach Steve Alford left the Hawkeyes for New Mexico.