Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 | 2:45 p.m.
When the UNLV basketball team gathers for its offseason conditioning next fall on the campus track, incoming freshman forward Christian Wood might be one of the leaders in the sprints and distance drills.
Wood, who Wednesday signed his national letter of intent with the Rebels on the first day of the early signing period, is more than familiar with conditioning from his past two seasons at Findlay Prep in Henderson.
The alarm clocks rings at 5:30 a.m. on conditioning days for the Findlay players, and they hit the football field at the Henderson International School, which houses the nationally respected basketball team, by 6 a.m. when the sun has yet to rise.
Players run 150-yard sprints 16 times, several shorter distance sprints and the mile. That translates to an up-tempo style of play on the basketball court — a similarity between UNLV and Findlay Prep and a major reason why the 6-foot-11 Wood could thrive immediately for the Rebels.
“The transition (during conditioning) will be very smooth,” Findlay coach Todd Simon said. “A lot of (former players) come back and talk about how we make the transition easier. It builds your confidence knowing your are in shape and can play for awhile.”
Wood can play either forward position for UNLV. He verbally committed to UNLV following a visit in the summer of 2011 after instantly being attracted to the Rebels’ fast break style of play and the chemistry with the coaching staff.
It appears to be a perfect match.
“They are called the Runnin’ Rebels for a reason,” Wood said. “Findlay teaches us to run. That is what got me ready for UNLV.”
Wood has blossomed in his two years at Findlay Prep in becoming one of the nation’s top 50 recruits. He took a major gamble leaving William J. Knight High in Palmdale, Calif., for Findlay. He gave up starter’s minutes last year for a role primarily off the bench at Findlay.
But the time wasn’t lost, especially in the weight room.
He arrived at Findlay Prep weighing 165 pounds and has added 45 pounds to his frame in transforming his game. Oftentimes last year, Wood opted to play facing the basket and was hesitant to be aggressive on the inside.
Now, he’s a force near the rim. For instance, he scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds with three blocks Tuesday against La Jolla Prep. And Simon thinks he could break the Findlay single-season shot-blocking record.
“Coach Simon said I won’t play if I’m not physical,” Wood said. “I have to be physical. I have to get into the paint and rebound and do the little things to help us win.”
In one quick year, Wood went from being an under-the-radar type of recruit to being ranked as the nation’s No. 36 prospect by Rivals.com. As his game has developed, so has his desire to be a leader at Findlay.
The Pilots have one of the nation’s top high school teams each year in playing a scheduled packed with ranked opponents. It typically finishes ranked in the top 5 — if not national champions — and has alumni playing major college basketball, if not in the NBA. This year, Wood is one of the teams’ best players, which speaks volumes to UNLV coaches identifying talent on the recruiting trail.
“He has embraced the weight room,” Simon said. “He takes it seriously. He has redefined his game. Instead of hanging around the arc, he is playing in the paint. He has embraced that.”
Also at Findlay Prep, guard Stanford Robinson (Indiana) and post player Benas Griciunas (Auburn) signed their letters of intent. Four-year Findlay guard Nigel Williams-Goss said he will sign Friday with Washington, while Allerik Freeman will also sign Friday with UCLA. Big man Fallou Ndoye committed this week to Mississippi State and is still waiting for his signing papers to arrive.
UNLV also signed one of the Las Vegas area’s top girls players in Diamond Major. The 5-foot-11 Major, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 54 wing by ESPN, plays both forward positions and is considered an elite defender.
At Centennial, five basketball players were expected to sign. Twins Malcolm and Marcus Allen signed with Stanford, and girls players Jada Brown (Kansas), Tamera Williams (New Mexico State) and Breanna Workman (Arizona) also were scheduled to sign.
At Clark, guard Sir Washington signed with Eastern Washington, while Valley High’s big man Daniel Young is committed to sign with Cal-State Fullerton .
This is also the signing day for several other sports. Here’s a list of athletes signing to the next level submitted by their schools or families. (We’ll add to this story if you send us information on others).
At Bishop Gorman, swimmers Olivia Barker (Indiana) and Lindsey Englestead (New Mexico) are scheduled to sign. The same for Gorman baseball standout Kenny Meimerstorf (Arizona).
Three College of Southern Nevada baseball players also signed — infielder Chad Whiteaker to Central Florida, and first baseman Morgan Stotts and pitcher Joey Lauria to UNLV.
At Coronado, lacrosse player Kieran Eissler signed with John Hopkins University. Eissler, who also plays defensive back for the Coronado football team, attended the ESPN Warrior 40 camp this summer for the nation’s top prospects.