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May 26, 2022

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A football commitment 2,000 miles away should give UNLV fans hope with Muhammad

If the No. 1 quarterback prospect in 2012 class can commit to hometown underdog, could the same thing happen in hoops?

adidas Super 64 - Shabazz Muhammad

Sam Morris

Dream Vision’s Shabazz Muhammad is surrounded by media after playing the Atlanta Celtics Friday, July 22, 2011 during the adidas Super 64 tournament.

Click to enlarge photo

Columbus (Ind.) East's Gunner Kiel.

The Rebel Room

Recruiting season hits its peak

This week on LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk - doubling as The Rebel Room podcast - Ray Brewer and Ryan Greene break down a busy recruiting month for Dave Rice and his UNLV men's basketball staff. The crazy weekend in Las Vegas included three big tournaments, and the the guys will fill you in on who the staff made sure to go watch, who has emerged as the primary recruiting targets and who could likely be the next commit - or two - in the class of 2012.

A piece of major college football recruiting news broke on Thursday afternoon, and even though it happened almost 2,000 miles away, it should give UNLV basketball fans another reason to have hope when it comes to the recruitment of local star Shabazz Muhammad.

Gunner Kiel, a 6-foot-4 quarterback from Columbus, Ind., with a cannon attached to his right shoulder and maybe the most quarterback-appropriate name in history, pulled a major shocker when he committed to play his college ball at Indiana.

Kiel ranks as the No. 19 overall prospect in the 2012 class, according to Rivals.com, but he is the top-ranked quarterback — essentially meaning he's as valuable as they come.

He held scholarship offers from just about any big-name program you could think of, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC and several others.

But he shunned them all and opted to play at a school with only 17 Big Ten wins to its credit in the last decade and only one bowl game appearance since 1993. The Bloomington campus is only located about 35 miles away from Kiel's hometown.

"It came down to gut feel and where he felt most comfortable," his father, Kip Kiel, told The Indianapolis Star. "With Alabama there's obviously a lot of tradition. But coach (Kevin) Wilson has done a great job and there's a lot of excitement in Bloomington right now. I think Gunner felt that."

Sound familiar?

Wilson came to Indiana this offseason after working wonders as both an offensive coordinator and developer of quarterbacks (Sam Bradford, Landry Jones) at Oklahoma. There's a family connection, with his older brother, Dusty, set to begin his sophomore season at IU.

As for Muhammad, he is currently ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 overall prospect from the 2012 senior crop. The versatile, 6-foot-6 lefty did nothing to dispute his status during this weekend's adidas Super 64, which marked the end of his AAU season.

While Muhammad was putting up 30- and 40-point games in his hometown at the Super 64 and making it look easy on his home turf, both the UNLV coaching staff and its loyal fans were doing everything they could to show him the love.

During the non-contact period between coaches and recruits, first-year Rebels coach Dave Rice and his band of assistants had multiple bodies at each of Muhammad's games this weekend, while fans organized outings via message board threads and word of mouth, making their presence — and colors felt — in the stands.

The recruitment of Muhammad and Kiel have some similarities beyond simply the hometown appeal.

Like Wilson, Dave Rice has added a splash of excitement since being hired in early April to replace Lon Kruger, who took the Oklahoma job on April 1. His promise of a more uptempo, high-scoring playing style, coupled with an "aim for the stars" approach in recruiting has the local buzz growing.

UNLV also has a family tie to its top target, as Muhammad's coach at Gorman — Grant Rice — is Dave's younger brother.

Like Kiel should be for Indiana, Muhammad would be a game-changer for UNLV, not only on the floor but also in terms of potential revenue through ticket sales, exposure for the program and success on the recruiting trail. The possible benefits are countless.

And, as was the case for Indiana, UNLV will have to beat out the blue-bloods.

Muhammad has yet to set an official list of the five schools he'll take official visits to, but all indications right now say that UNLV will get one of them. But so will schools like UCLA, Kentucky and Duke.

UNLV landing Muhammad would be one of the biggest recruiting upsets college basketball has seen in years, though the Rebels have a fair chance in the fight. And Kiel committing to Indiana on Wednesday proves that it most certainly is possible.

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