The news figured to come at some point, as it usually does this time of year, and it came Wednesday for three UNLV players who were granted releases from their scholarships.
Guards Jalen Poyser and Zion Morgan and forward Troy Baxter Jr. are leaving the basketball program, creating two open scholarship spots.
“While these decisions are very difficult, the outcomes always represent the best interest of our student-athletes,” coach Marvin Menzies said in a statement. “The Runnin’ Rebel family is greatly appreciative of the commitment and contributions of each of these young men. We will support them in every way possible with their transition to pursue their athletic and academic goals.”
Menzies declined further comment.
If the turnover is limited to the three players, and there was no indication more are expected to leave, the number isn’t high by UNLV standards.
UNLV lost nine players early to the NBA Draft in the previous four years, and others left or were forced out during that time. Last season’s mass exodus left the Rebels with only three returning players, forcing Menzies to quickly build a roster shortly after being hired in April.
The result was a school-record 21 losses with only 11 victories.
But the core of the team will return, and UNLV should benefit by getting forward Dwayne Morgan back in the lineup. He missed most of the season with hip and shoulder injuries.
Also, Jordan Johnson figures to start at point guard after sitting out the season because of NCAA transfer rules. Jordan was second in the nation with 8.1 assists per game in the 2015-16 season at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
More players are on the way, with a source inside the program saying at least two junior college recruits will take official visits April 7. The names of the players were not given.
UNLV remains in the running for 6-foot 11-inch center Brandon McCoy of San Diego. ESPN.com rates him as the nation’s sixth-best prospect, and he also is considering Oregon, Arizona, Michigan State and San Diego State. McCoy had 13 points and seven rebounds in the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday in Chicago.
Duke 6-10 forward/center Chase Jeter, who went to Bishop Gorman High School, also could wind up a Rebel. He has left the Blue Devils, but a Duke source said Jeter also wants to consider Pac-12 Conference schools.
In its current recruiting class, UNLV has one signee and three commitments. The signee was 6-5 guard Jay Green, and the commitments were from 6-7 forward Anthony Smith, 6-6 forward Tervell Beck and 6-11 forward Chiekh Mbacke Diong.
The spring signing period begins April 12.
Contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.
COMING AND GOINGS
Entering the UNLV program
— Guard Jay Green, 6-5, Phoenix, Hillcrest Prep
— Forward Tervell Beck, 6-6, OnPoint Hoops Academy, El Reno, Okla.
— Forward Anthony Smith, 6-7, Feather River College, Quincy, Calif.
— Forward Chiekh Mbacke Diong, 6-11, Florida Air Academy, Melbourne
— Forward Troy Baxter Jr., averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds
— Guard Zion Morgan, averaged 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds
— Guard Jalen Poyser, averaged 10.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists