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NOTES: Dave Rice drama could linger when Rebels go recruiting

Now that UNLV men’s basketball coach Dave Rice officially has been retained for his fifth season, he and his staff can start planning for the future.

But two prominent local travel basketball coaches — Anthony Brown of the Las Vegas Prospects and Lamar Bigby of the Las Vegas Knicks — said this week that Rebels athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy put Rice in an awkward position on the recruiting trail this summer when she publicly placed him on the hot seat.

“I’m not an A.D., but I think it’s somewhat of a travesty,” Brown said. “His bread and butter has been recruiting. That’s what he does. He recruits well, and you give him an ultimatum ‘win or get fired,’ it’s going to hurt him in the early (signing) period. That’s the obvious. It’s going to hurt him.

“She’s going to have to combat her statement some time in the future and say how much support she has for him. And then there’s some relationships that are going to need some mending.”

The Rebels are still trying to put the finishing touches on their 2015 recruiting class, with Bishop Gorman star Stephen Zimmerman the top target before the spring signing period begins April 15. After that, Rice and Co. will start working on the 2016 and 2017 classes.

The first day players from the class of 2016 can sign a letter of intent is Nov. 11, meaning those players must commit to UNLV without knowing whether Rice will be the coach when they arrive on campus. And rival coaches are sure to use that when recruiting against the Rebels this summer.

“At the end of the day, it depends on who you are,” Bigby said. “If I’m a Rashad Vaughn-type recruit where I’m a McDonald’s All-American and I know all I need is one year to step on the floor and produce and I’m out of there, then that kid can come. But if you’re a kid that’s a four-year guy, a three-year guy, you’re one of those kind of guys who’s a program guy, then you’re going to be a little hesitant to sign with UNLV because you don’t know Dave Rice’s future.”

Added Brown: “You have to wait and see. It’s a tough situation for Dave, and I don’t think he deserved that.”

UNLV is not currently recruiting any Prospects or Knicks players from 2016, and its lone commit in that class is Findlay Prep guard/forward Justin Jackson.

The Prospects feature three of the region’s top 2017s (Centennial guard Troy Brown, Gorman swingman Charles O’Bannon and point guard Markus Howard of Gilbert, Ariz.), while the Knicks have a potential national-level 2017 recruit in wing Greg Floyd Jr., who sat out this past season at Desert Pines after transferring from Clark.

Bigby, who played at UNLV from 2001 to 2003, said the school has to decide what type of player it wants to recruit.

“I’m supportive of Dave, but UNLV has to choose who we want to be,” Bigby said. “Do we want to be the school that wants the NBA players, or do we want to be the school that is willing to build a program on three- to four-year kids? It has zero to do with Dave Rice. It has everything to do with what direction the administration wants to go.”

■ GAELS IN POLL — Bishop Gorman’s baseball team was ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s Super 25 preseason poll that was released last week. The Gaels feature five seniors who have signed or orally committed to Division I schools and are 2-0 under first-year coach Gino DiMaria.

■ RECENT COMMITMENTS — Bishop Gorman junior Zach Collins to Gonzaga for men’s basketball.

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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