It’s the next step in the rebuilding process, the second spring signing period under Marvin Menzies’ watch at UNLV.
This isn’t the class that will by itself turn around the Rebels’ basketball program, but this group of players will play a vital role.
Menzies will announce the class when the signing period opens Wednesday, though more members are expected to be added.
“Obviously, every year you have to design your recruiting class to maximize your potential to win that following year,” Menzies said. “However, at the beginning of a journey, you have to process it even a little bit further out. So that’s why strategically things are done a little bit differently taking over a program as compared to three or four years into it when you should be by then into a more steady flow of recruiting to your philosophy.
“Eventually, we’d like to get to predominately high school players and periodically looking at a transfer or junior college kid, depending on needs to be efficient the next year. At this stage of the game, however, we’re kind of open to trying to collect the best talent available, but also give us a dual-prong approach to having some talent in the cupboard for the long term as well.”
Building the class
UNLV announced one signing in November during the fall period — 6-foot 5-inch guard Jay Green of Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix.
The Rebels picked up three more commitments who are expected to be announced Wednesday — 6-11 forward Chiekh Mbacke Diong of Melbourne’s Florida Air Academy, 6-6 forward Tervell Beck of OnPoint Hoops Academy in El Reno, Oklahoma, and 6-7 forward Anthony Smith of Feather River College in Quincy, California.
After three players left the program March 29, two open spots were created for scholarships.
UNLV brought in at least two junior college recruits last weekend, according to a source with knowledge of the visits. CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported one of those was 6-7 forward Shakur Juiston of Hutchison (Kansas) Community College, who, according to Zagsblog.com, also is considering Kansas, Oklahoma and Connecticut, among others.
Menzies has to decide whether more than two spots will be open, factoring in the effects on the Academic Progress Rate should other players depart UNLV. And he has to decide whether he has better players coming in rather than leaving before persuading anyone to exit.
“We’re looking at a lot of moving pieces because of the APR situation,” Menzies said. “We need to make sure that guys are staying on top of their academics, but at the same time, we’re evaluating how guys are handling their business daily here from the individual workouts to every component of the program. It’s always an evaluation in your first year with new guys.”
Making a late push
Menzies was working at a major disadvantage in assembling the 2017 class because he recruited a different caliber of player at New Mexico State, his previous coaching stop. Attracting the kinds of players UNLV is accustomed to signing was difficult because such relationships are established over years.
But the Rebels remain in contention for San Diego 6-11 center Brandon McCoy, who also lists Oregon, Arizona, Michigan and San Diego State among his choices. ESPN ranks McCoy as the nation’s No. 6 recruit.
Also, 6-5 guard M.J. Walker of Jonesboro, Georgia, reportedly added UNLV to his list of schools that includes Kansas, UCLA and Florida State, among others. ESPN ranks him 19th.
Menzies isn’t allowed under NCAA rules to comment on unsigned recruits, but he did address whether gains had been made attracting top players.
“I think that we have made some progress,” he said. “However, the talent pool was thin in the early signed period. It didn’t all of the sudden get thick. It’s still thin, but at least for the guys that select to sign late, we’ve had time to groom relationships and become more involved with building a reputation and building a package to present to them.
“I feel like we’ll have some pretty good signatures on signing day.”
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.
UNLV’s Mountain West opponents
2016-17 record: 12-21, 4-14 MW
Key returning players: G Jacob Van (10.6 points), G Trevor Lyons (7.4 points), C Frank Toohey (10.7 points)
Key losses: G Zach Kocur (9.7 points), F Hayden Graham (12.6 points)
Incoming recruits: Air Force doesn’t sign players.
Overview: The Falcons had such a disappointing season that coach Dave Pilipovich’s future was called into question. But he is returning and bringing back some top players. Air Force won’t be a conference contender, but the Falcons have proven to be a headache for opponents over the years. At least that part shouldn’t change.
2016-17 record: 20-12, 12-6 MW, made second round of the NIT
Key returning players: G Paris Austin (12.3 points), G Justinian Jessup (7.4 points), G Chandler Hutchison (17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds)
Key losses: G James Reid (10.0 points), F Nick Duncan (9.4 points)
Incoming recruits: F Casdon Jardine, College of Southern Idaho (10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds)
Overview: The Broncos should compete for the Mountain West championship. This could even be coach Leon Rice’s best team in what will be his eighth season. Hutchison is a great place to start, the key part of a backcourt that should be as good as any in the conference.
2016-17 record: 24-12, 13-5 MW, second round of the NIT
Key returning players: G Prentiss Nixon (13.2 points), G J.D. Paige (8.8 points)
Key losses: G Gian Clavell (20.4 points, 6.3 rebounds), F Emmanuel Omogbo (13.6 points, 10.4 rebounds)
Incoming recruits: G Raquan Mitchell, South Plains (Texas) College (7.6 points)
Overview: Larry Eustachy was named Mountain West Coach of the Year after relying mostly on two players and finding a way to get to the conference championship game. Now both players are gone — Clavell was conference Player of the Year — and Eustachy will have an even tougher coaching job in front of him.
2016-17 record: 20-13, 11-7 MW, first round of the NIT
Key returning players: G Jaron Hopkins (13.2 points), G Jahmel Taylor (10.5 points), G Deshon Taylor (12.5 points)
Key losses: G/F Paul Watson (11.4 points), F Karachi Edo (7.5 points), F Cullen Russo (8.0 points)
Incoming recruits: G New Williams. Auburn (mid-season transfer); Marcus Cooper, Northeastern Junior College, Sterling, Colo. (mid-season transfer); G Myles Fitzgerald-Warren, Portland, Ore. (20.8 points, 4.6 assists)
Overview: Expect the Bulldogs to again be in the mix for the conference title with the return of three players who averaged scoring in double figures. Coach Rodney Terry has proven he has the ability to put Fresno State in position to where it plays its best late in the season.
2016-17 record: 17-14, 10-8 MW
Key returning players: G/F Dane Kuiper (6.0 points)
Key losses: G Elijah Brown (18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds), F Tim Williams (17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds), G/F Sam Logwood (7.3 points)
Incoming recruits: C Chris Sodom, Phoenix (ESPN four-star recruit), F Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler, Omaha, Neb. (ESPN four-star recruit); F Mike Parks Jr., Missouri State-West Plains Junior College (8.3 points); G Quinn Clinton, New Zealand (member of junior national team)
Overview: This offseason has been a mess for the Lobos, who have watched four players leave early, including Brown. And then coach Craig Neal was let go, which could be good in the long run, but all this disruption puts New Mexico in a tough place in the short term.
San Diego State
2016-17 record: 19-14, 9-9 MW
Key returning players: G Devin Watson (sat out after transferring from San Francisco), G Trey Kell (13.2 points), G Jeremy Hemsley (12.9 points), F Max Hoetzel (7.7 points), F Zylan Cheatham (9.1 points, 6.3 rebounds), F Malik Pope (11.0 points, 6.1 rebounds), F Jalen McDaniels (four-star recruit by three services; redshirted this past season)
Key losses: G Dakarai Allen (8.3 points), F Matt Shrigley (5.2 points)
Incoming recruits: G/F Jordan Schakel (ESPN four-star recruit), Torrance, Calif.; G Adam Seiko, Chatsworth, Calif. (247 Sports three-star recruit)
Overview: The Aztecs look to bounce back from a disappointing season, but they will have to do it without coach Steve Fisher, who retired Monday. Getting Watson in the lineup will be big after he was forced to sit out under NCAA transfer rules, and with Kell and Hemsley, the Aztecs will have a strong backcourt.
San Jose State
2016-17 record: 14-16, 7-11 MW
Key returning players: F Brandon Clarke (17.3 points, 8.7 rebounds), G Jaycee Hillsman (5.9 points), G Jalen James (6.4 points),F Ryan Welage (13.2 points), G Terrell Brown (7.2 points)
Key losses: G Isaac Thornton (4.6 points), G Gary Williams Jr. (7.1 points)
Incoming recruits: G/F Noah Baumann, Phoenix (Rivals.com two-star recruit)
Overview: There should be genuine optimism entering next season for the Spartans, who have typically been bottom-feeders. Clarke is one of the Mountain West’s best players, and he leads a veteran team that should have every opportunity to at least finish in the top half of the league.
2016-17 record: 28-7, 14-4 MW, first round of the NCAA Tournament
Key returning players: G Lindsey Drew (5.9 points), G/F Jordan Caroline (15.0 points, 9.2 rebounds)
Key losses: F Cameron Oliver (16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds), G Marcus Marshall (19.7 points), D.J Fenner (13.7 points)
Incoming recruits: None
Overview: Oliver declared for the NBA Draft, but didn’t hire an agent, so he could return. Either way, UNR’s most important returnee is coach Eric Musselman, who resurrected the program. He also will had four key transfers — twins Cody and Caleb Martin from North Carolina State, Kendall Stephens from Purdue and Hallice Cook from Iowa State.
2016-17 record: 14-17, 7-11 MW
Key returning players: G Koby McEwen (14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds), G Sam Merrill (9.4 points)
Key losses: G Shane Rector (8.0 points), G/F Jalen Moore (17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds)
Incoming recruits: G/F Dwayne Brown Jr., Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa (13.8 points, 7.3 rebounds)
Overview: Utah State was inconsistent, and now the Aggies lose Moore, who will be difficult to replace. They do get back McEwen, the Mountain West Freshman of the Year, and guards Brock Miller and Crew Ainge (son of Danny, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations) will join the Aggies after two-year Mormon missions.
2016-17 record: 23-15, 8-10 MW, won CBI championship
Key returning players: F Hayden Dalton (12.2 points, 8.3 rebounds), F Alex Herndon (11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds), G Justin James (16.0 points., 5.0 rebounds)
Key losses: G Jason McManamen (11.3 points)
Incoming recruits: G Anthony Mack (consensus three-star recruit), G Hunter Maldonado (ESPN two-star recruit), F Hunter Thompson (ESPN four-star recruit)
Overview: The Cowboys became the second Mountain West team in a row to win the College Basketball Invitational, and last year’s winner, UNR, followed by capturing the conference championship. Wyoming won’t be the favorite next season to win the Mountain West title, but the Cowboys should at least be in the conversation.