Published Friday, July 1, 2011 | 1:12 p.m.
Updated Saturday, July 2, 2011 | 1:30 a.m.
Hear from UNLV commit Christian Wood
Over the next four weeks, Dave Rice and his UNLV coaching staff will travel across the country and back, scouting and evaluating dozens of potential recruits. Much of the focus will be placed on targeting who to go after the hardest in the class of 2012 in order to fill five vacant scholarships.
But before they hit the road next Tuesday, they received their first commitment from the 2013 crop, landing a pledge from gifted 6-foot-8 wing Christian Wood.
Wood, a Palmdale, Calif., native who played at William J. Knight High last season and goes by 'Chris,' will be quite familiar with Las Vegas by the time he attends his first class at UNLV two years from now. It was also confirmed on Friday that he'll be transferring to attend Findlay Prep in the Henderson foothills for his final two years of high school.
Wood bears a striking physical resemblance to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. Oddly enough, that's whose game he strives to emulate, as Wood has already established him as a strong slasher and smooth outside shooter.
If you're looking for a UNLV-related comparison, though, you might not have to look much further than a man who was key in securing the commitment for the Rebels — first-year assistant coach Stacey Augmon.
"He played in the NBA, so that's a big thing for me," Wood said. "He knows how the game is going to be, what the practices will be like. He can set me up for the future.
"It feels great. I (committed now) because of the coaching staff. I like them all, and they've coached great players like Jimmer (Fredette) and Kawhi (Leonard). I'll be happy to be around them."
Wood got a chance to first get to know the staff while taking an unofficial visit to campus last month, leaving the trip with a scholarship offer in-hand.
"I liked their style of play," he said.
Added his uncle, Derek Stewart: "We pretty much fell in love with the school and their staff. Christian wanted to be one of their first recruits under the new coaching staff."
Other schools that have shown significant interest in Wood so far include USC, Arizona, Utah, Louisville and Colorado. However, Stewart, who along with Wood's mother has helped raise him since he was born, said that the 3.5-hour drive from Palmdale to Las Vegas was appealing, too, allowing the family to attend the bulk of his home games at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Augmon had a major hand in landing Wood, and it was more than his lengthy résumé as a collegiate all-American, professional standout and NBA assistant coach that did the trick. He has a long-standing relationship with Kenny Story, who coaches Wood on the AAU circuit with the Southern California All-Stars.
While he'll play a major role in Wood's development once he's officially in the fold at UNLV, from the sound of it, so too will Jason Kabo — the program's strength & conditioning guru.
"My weakness is my strength," said Wood, who checks in right now at just 185 pounds. "I have to get stronger."
Still, it's not what Wood is now that has so many schools calling, but rather what he could be down the road. At the moment, ESPN scouting services have him ranked as the No. 37 overall prospect in the 2013 class and 11th at his position.
He'll likely be well-served by playing on such a loaded roster at Findlay Prep over the next two seasons. In recent weeks, the Pilots have added two top senior prospects to their squad for the 2011-12 campaign in point guard Dominic Artis and big man Brandon Ashley — also California transplants.
If the commitment holds, it could prove to be a major turning point for the UNLV program in the recruiting world, as grabbing a top-tier West Coast prospect might help the Rebels contend with the traditional powers for many more of them over the coming years.