Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 3:30 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 4:55 p.m.
Whatever lumps they take on the court, Dave Rice’s Rebels don’t lose many recruiting battles. They won another big one today as five-star Findlay Prep guard Rashad Vaughn announced his decision to attend UNLV this fall.
"Me and Coach Rice kicked off our relationship from the jump," said Vaughn, who completed his outfit of a white shirt, black vest and black bowtie with a UNLV hat. "I like everything he was talking about and the blueprint he set out for me."
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Vaughn went on CBS Sports Network today and picked the Rebels over Iowa State, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky. He joins top-40 prospects Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh in UNLV’s class of 2014, which will now likely be ranked in the top five or 10 nationally.
"I know the pieces we have next year," said Vaughn, whom Rivals.com lists as the nation's No. 7 overall prospect for the class of 2014. "We can win a national championship."
Morgan had frequently contacted Vaughn to sell him on also committing to UNLV, but who knows how hard a sell he actually had to give. Vaughn, a Minnesota native who was the class of 2014's second-highest-rated uncommitted recruit, transferred to Findlay Prep for his senior season. His mentor and former assistant coach, Pete Kaffey, also came to the area as a Findlay Prep assistant coach.
UNLV’s Todd Simon was the main assistant coach recruiting Vaughn, with Rice also involved. Simon spent six years as an assistant at Findlay Prep and one as head coach before filling the Rebels’ coaching vacancy this past offseason.
Because Simon got to know Vaughn while talking to him about coming to Findlay Prep, the Rebels had a leg up in the recruiting race once Simon joined the staff. Rice and Simon went to Minnesota to meet with Vaughn’s parents before the season, and the family was in town Nov. 26 for an official visit during UNLV’s 61-59 loss to Illinois.
Sources leaked information in the hour before his announcement that Iowa State had been informed it was no longer in the running. That brought out plenty of vitriol from Cyclones fans and disappointment from ISU assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, who was the main guy recruiting Vaughn.
"The moment you feel like you cant breath after you been repeatedly punched in the stomach is exactly how I feel #ontothenext," he tweeted.
Vaughn said the decision came down to the situation he was most comfortable with, and that happened to be the program a short drive away.
"At the end of the day, I had to do what is best for me and best for my family," he said. "This was best for me."
Morgan and Okonoboh have already signed their letters of intent. Vaughn will be able to do that during the spring signing period from April 16 to May 21. When Vaughn signs on the dotted line, he will become the fifth Pilot on the Rebels’ roster over the past four seasons. The others are Brice Massamba, Carlos Lopez-Sosa, Anthony Bennett and current freshman Christian Wood.
Vaughn and Findlay Prep teammate Kelly Oubre, who’s signed to Kansas, were recently selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game April 2 at the United Center in Chicago. If every Rebel with eligibility remaining returns, Vaughn would be the third McDonald’s All-American on the roster, joining current juniors Khem Birch and Jelan Kendrick.
Vaughn missed more than five games this season with a left knee injury but returned recently and scored 21 points in the Pilots’ overtime loss to Bishop Gorman on Jan. 25. Rice and Simon were courtside for the game, which also featured many class of 2015 targets for UNLV, including Gorman’s big-man duo of Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter.
The three-man class puts UNLV at its limit of 13 scholarship players for the 2014-15 season, filling the spots left open by Savon Goodman’s departure, Jamal Aytes’ transfer and Lopez-Sosa’s graduation. However, the program is still keeping tabs on a few class of 2014 prospects because there’s always a chance another player will transfer or a guy on pace to graduate, such as Bryce Dejean-Jones or Roscoe Smith, will leave early.