Now at Findlay Prep, 7-foot UNLV target Matt Willms ready to blossom

Canadian center will learn plenty on the practice floor alone against fellow Pilot big men


Sam Morris

Detroit Stars forward Matt Willms - a UNLV recruiting target - takes a shot Friday, July 22, 2011 during the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament at Bishop Gorman.

When UNLV first began recruiting 7-foot Canadian center Matt Willms in early July, he was about as under the radar as a 7-footer could possibly be.

Dave Rice and his staff were made aware of the big left-hander through a connection with Tyrone Lofton — his coach on the AAU circuit with the Detroit Stars.

As July wore on, as expected, more schools from every corner of the country began to take notice of Willms, who has a nice touch inside and a natural ability to run the floor. The more tournaments he played in around the country, the more eyes he caught.

This weekend, Willms arrived in the Henderson foothills, where he'll suit up for Findlay Prep as a senior. School began Monday on the Henderson International School campus, but for Willms, he's about to learn just as much on the floor every day in practice.

Findlay's 12-man roster this season includes eight players who stand at least 6-foot-8, including elite talents with the likes of fellow seniors Winston Shepard, Brandon Ashley and Anthony Bennett.

"I'm going to love playing against those guys," he said. "They're tall and strong. I'll get my toughness up and improve on my ability to rebound.

"I'm just going to have to open up more and get outside of myself."

Willms is still raw, having just picked up basketball a few years ago following a rapid 13-inch growth spurt. But several college coaching staffs easily salivate over the thought of what they could build with a player so young, so tall and so coordinated physically.

Willms grew up in Leamington, Ontario, but moved roughly 30 miles across the Canadian border last season to get his first taste of hoops in the United States at Detroit's Consortium Prep. Now, the combination of Findlay Prep's loaded schedule and the amount of national exposure the program gets will push Willms into the spotlight even more. Also, expect him to grow physically within Findlay's disciplined weights program. He checked in this weekend at 205 pounds.

More scholarship offers should begin pouring in soon, including one potentially from UNLV. But right now, Marquette, Clemson, Nebraska and Minnesota are among the others pursuing Willms. Even though UNLV has not yet extended a formal offer, Willms readily admits that the Rebels' staff has shown heavy interest and has his attention. On top of the schools he's listed, there are several more from the Big Ten, Big East and ACC starting to nibble.

UNLV currently has three open scholarships in the 2012 class following commitments from Daquan Cook and Katin Reinhardt. Willms said that he will most likely be taking an official visit to campus at some point this fall.

"It's been crazy," Willms said of the rush of attention. "I'm still open to all of the schools. I haven't decided anything or told anyone anything."

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  1. Somebody buy this kid a burger!... Actually, that's a viaolation!!!!

  2. I think with the up front talent we have already here and coming in to Unlv, willms would be perfect cause he should know that hes a four year player. A perfect piece to the puzzle cause he won't take away mins from players who deserve them but will get enough mins that when he's a soph or junior he will be awesome. Let's get him, bazz, and Allen. We'd be set.

  3. Really hope we can lock this kid down. Go Rebs!

  4. We haven't formally offered? That needs to be rectified immediately. UNLV is hurting for depth at center after this season with Massamba graduating.

  5. Having Lopez in the fold and working hard would be a great way for this kid to learn the system to be put in place by Rice & Tark used to say "you can't teach 7 ft" so go get him locked up!

  6. We currently have 3 roster spots for 2012 and about 8 top100 guys currently interested in UNLV.. Willms might be a good player, but it's a reach to offer him now and risk having to lose someone else. Especially considering we'll have Lopez until Wood comes in..

  7. Agree with Unlv-123. If the argument is he will learn from Anthony Bennet and Winston Shepard then let's just lock up Anthony Bennetor Winston Shepard first. If we lose them then get willms. Hopefully all is well with all players.

  8. Agreed with 123 & Dain. There are a lot of question marks on this kid as far as basketball IQ goes. I haven't seen him play, but I also think there are some really good players we are getting like Wood.

  9. I agree as well. A 7fter is nice but as raw as he is it would take a while for him to develop. We have some serious recruits in the top 100 that really are legitamitely interested in UNLV, where as this kid is tall and may be good but doesnt always mean hes gonna be in the class of those others. If we land 3 more top 100 recruits I d take those over a 7fter. I see Wilms as more of the Amundson type, needs a few years to develop, could be good, but very raw and by senior year hed be good enough. But lets face it 7ft is nice but so is 6-11, 6-10, 6-8, 6-4, and so on all top 100 recruits.

  10. Please don't shoot me for this but...... we all know landing Shabazz is a reach and if we do we're gonna need role players (if shabazz stays for longer than a year). It's not all about talent, it's about chemistry and putting the right pieces in place. I'm not totally sold on Willms but we can't put all of our eggs into a few top 25 prospects who are also being wooed by the nation's best.

    Sure I want the best players and another championship but we need to build towards it with a kid like this (hard worker, smart and a presence in the paint) The Final Four isn't happening overnight - ALL ONLY MY OPINION.

    Go Rebels!