On a sweltering late July day in Las Vegas, one game turned Jamal Aytes into one of the hottest unsigned prospects on the summer basketball circuit.
UNLV coach Dave Rice was there to witness it, and he didn’t forget Aytes’ first impression.
Aytes, a 6-foot-6-inch power forward from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., announced Monday on Twitter he has orally committed to UNLV.
Aytes, who is eligible to play this season, took the Rebels’ last available scholarship. He also was being recruited by Arizona, Brigham Young, Gonzaga, Miami and West Virginia.
In the adidas Super 64 tournament at Rancho High, Aytes piled up 38 points and 16 rebounds in Dream Vision Elite’s 72-62 victory over Mass Rivals. Rice was not the only coach who walked away impressed.
“There were quite a few schools that were recruiting Jamal before that day, and a lot more after that day,” Dream Vision coach Clayton Williams said. “After that day, it was more of a question of who’s not recruiting him? The list got pretty steep.”
Aytes, who visited the UNLV campus last week, was a summer teammate with Stephen Zimmerman, a 7-foot junior from Bishop Gorman High School. Zimmerman also is being courted by the Rebels.
“Jamal wanted to stay on the West Coast, and he thinks the Mountain West is a great conference,” Williams said. “With the style UNLV plays, he feels like he can fit in and help.”
The Rebels are loaded on the front line, led by 6-9 junior Khem Birch, 6-11 senior Carlos Lopez-Sosa and 6-6 sophomore Savon Goodman. Roscoe Smith, a 6-8 junior who transferred from Connecticut, and Demetris Morant, 6-9 freshman from Bishop Gorman, redshirted last season.
Aytes and Chris Wood, a highly touted 6-10 forward from Findlay Prep, will have a chance to make an impact as incoming freshmen.
At 240 pounds and with a 7-foot wingspan, Aytes has displayed an ability to overpower small forwards and score over taller players in the post.
Aytes averaged 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a high school senior.
“Jamal is undersized but because he’s got such good skills and is so strong, it makes him a nightmare matchup,” Williams said. “He’s quick to the ball, is well above average athletically and has impeccable footwork. He can shoot the ball from 15 to 20 feet and knock those shots down all day long.
“That’s a man. He’s an old-school player. I think Jamal is going to be a big success at UNLV.”
Aytes was offered the scholarship that was vacated when freshman guard Katin Reinhardt transferred to Southern California.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@review journal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.