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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?


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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  1. As much as we like to dream, this ain't happening.....no way this kid is going to play for Dave Rice with a bunch of unknowns with no guarantee of getting to the tournament when he can guarantee himself a chance to go to the big dance by going to a big time program like Duke or UCLA.

    If he plays for UNLV and doesn't make it to the tourney in his Freshmen year, he'll have no chance at getting drafted in the NBA and he will have to play multiple years in college to get there. Young kids nowadays like him use NCAA ball to get noticed by the NBA and rank as high as possible so they can make the big $$$.

  2. I have to agree with Sinatra, this was a nice fluff story but there is no chance for this kid to go to UNLV. There is no way especially with the sub par TV contract that the mountain west has. This kid would get what maybe one game a year on a cbs sports channel that no one watches? Sorry UNLV but you gotta wake up...

  3. I think UNLV has just a good a shot as any other place at this point. UNLV is a tournament team with the personnel we have on the floor. There are some nknowns as to style and tempo, but we know the guys that are on the floor. It says a lot when a new coach comes in and there aren't any transfers. If worst comes to worst, Muhammad comes here, the season isn't fantastic, and he transfers. I don't think that'll happen though.

  4. Not surprising to see someone with the name "GoBruins" casting negativity on the situation. There is one good thing that could come out of Shabazz committing to UCLA, if that were to happen. He would eventually become a Rebel. Guys seem to love playing for Howland. Just ask Stanback, Moser, and Carlino.

    The whole thing is dreaming and speculation for all the involved parties, so why not hope just like all the other schools are at this point. The only thing that is a guarantee is that Shabazz will be a lotery pick in the NBA. Sinatra711's comment about him not playing in the NBA if he doesn't make it to the tournament in his freshman year is probably the most uninformed comment I have heard in a long time. If you think the NBA doesn't know who Shabazz Muhammad is already and that he needs college to make a name for himself then you don't know anything about basketball. Sorry.

  5. Sorry, GoBruins, the handle says it all, thus zero credibility here. He lives in Vegas, knows what a great town it is and by now is familiar with the fabulous Runnin' Rebel history. With Rice and Augmon et.al. taking over an awakening program I say UNLV has as good a chance as anyone. This kid will be a star whether every game he plays is on ESPN and ABC sports and live streaming internet or zero TV coverage (which basically means the MTN)

  6. @Go Bruins

    First off Go Bruins, your name says it all. You're going to advocate against any program that isn't your own....so your opinion is easily dismissed in this community.


    I disagree. You can't say that there's no way when Muhammad himself has said several times that UNLV is strongly in the mix. I'm not saying that he's coming here for SURE but come on....what's with the absolutes? You can throw in all the stats and reasons you like but at the end of the day those things don't always predict human behavior. Only one school can sign him and when they do does that mean that no other program had any chance at all of signing him? i.e. DUKE, UNC, UCLA, etc, etc.... Because I have a feeling that if we don't sign him you'll be the first one on here saying "I told you we were dreaming!" I wonder if the fan base of the aforementioned schools will say the same thing?

    Just the fact that you are trying to play prognosticator makes it difficult to respect your take.

  7. I think there is a strong likelihood that Shabazz does end up choosing UNLV for a number of reasons. He has a tight-knit family and if you're only going to play for one year, why up-root yourself for a year if, in likelihood, you'll be moving to a pro city soon enough? His dad also said in an earlier story on here that "it'd be tough to say no to UNLV."

    The notions that A) if we didn't make the tournament, there's no way that Shabazz would get drafted and B) that we wouldn't make the tournament with Shabazz are both ridiculous. Basketball is the sport where one player can make a huge difference. I will guarantee that if Shabazz comes to UNLV, we make the Sweet 16 his first season. Its not like the current players are a bunch of stiffs. Plus, this isn't Kruger and his sorry assistants... players are actually going to improve over their time at UNLV now. And if high school players were still able to enter the draft, Shabazz would be a first round, if not a lottery pick, straight out of Gorman.

    The TV deal in the MWC is garbage, but let's ask Kawaii Leonard and Jimmer Fredette how much that affected them. Both were lottery picks and I saw Jimmer all over Sportscenter last year.

    As for your comment GoBruins that "UNLV you gotta wake up," I'll just say be careful what you wish for. UNLV is waking up and its making some of the bluebloods a little nervous.

  8. Same things were said when Larry Johnson was considering playing for UNLV...crappy league...not many TV games...blah blah blah!!! Well look what happened...he came to UNLV...the networks flocked to televise our games...we won the national title his 1st year and should've won it going undefeated the 2nd year!! The Rebels became a national phenomena with fans all over the country!! Oh, and Larry Johnson was the 1st pick in the NBA Draft too!! That's what Shabazz Muhammad has to look forward to by playing for the Rebels!! Or, he can play for a blue-blood team and be just another blue-chipper among many!!

  9. I really believe that we have the same chances, as the other schools, to land this kid at UNLV. I mean all this talk about not having enough exposure is a load of baloney. Look at some of the kids drafted in this years NBA draft. I've never heard of most of these kids that played internationally and Enes Kanter never played one minute of NCAA ball and he was drafted third overall. I never heard of Paul George until draft day and he was obviously good enough to be picked in the lottery. So look the only people that these kids need to be exposed to are called NBA scouts. I'm pretty sure there are plenty watching his games already and if he's as good as people say he is then they probably wouldn't mind coming to Vegas to watch him play.

  10. "he can guarantee himself a chance to go to the big dance by going to a big time program like Duke or UCLA"

    No he can't.

    ucla FAILED TO MAKE the ncaa tournament as recently as the '09-'10 season! bruins were 14-18 that season. They also missed the ncaa tourney in back to back years in 2002 and 2003. They didn't even make the NIT in any of the three LOSING seasons mentioned.

    Your ignorance is on display, Sinatra.

  11. The level of obsessing that this paper is doing over this kid is almost disturbing. Every time he even uses the letters U, N, L or V in a sentence you guys feel the need to write yet another article about him.

    You UNLV fans, like really, what exactly are you expecting anyways? This school hasn't had a championship-relevant team in two decades. The speculation and hoo-rah that goes on around here seems like people think the days of LJ & company were just last week. Is everyone really that stupid, or just blind? Or do you just need something to root for and UNLV is all you have?

    I guess most people here are just used to mediocre...and since we have no professional sports franchises, its trendy to just run out, buy some Rebel gear from Wal-Mart, and declare yourselves a fan.

    But really, another poster pointed out, this kid is overhyped. Put up against formidable competition, those Texans laid on the whooping.

    He's good here because this is a second-rate city with comical high school athletics. If he was really that sensational, he'd be playing somewhere other than for Nevada's #1 school for recruiting violations.

    (And, the kid needs to remember there's 4 other players on the court. Almost everyone, even his own teammates, will tell you that it has become the "Shabazz Show" and not basketball".

  12. Overhyped???

    He's the #1 overall recruit in the country. And that's according to NATIONAL recruitng services who sure know a lot more than you.

    And did you actually just type "like really" in a sentence?

  13. UNLV is a tournament with team even without Shabazz, they become a sweet 16, or even higher with Shabazz. Vegas athletes can compete with anyone in the country at any sport, some of the statements on here are comical & not even worth commenting on. I promise you UNLV is in Shabazz's final 5 & not because its hometown hype either. There are a lot of positives for Shabazz staying home, who's to say the Rebels couldn't make it as far in the tourney in 2012 as Duke, UNC, Kansas, or Kentucky? UNLV makes a lot of sense for Shabazz, they will be right there until the end.

    Professional scouts will find you no matter where you play, tv contract or not, it doesn't matter how big or small your school is, if you have professional talent scouts are going to find you.

  14. I'm having a hard time deciding if he is overhyped or not. He seems to dominate against lesser competition, but struggles against teams who actually play team defense. Teams who focus on taking him out are usually able to be fairly successful doing that, but the reason this works is because at the high school level, even high level AAU, there aren't enough players who are good enough to take up the slack created when he is being shut down. At the college level however this isn't the case and if teams try to shut him down his teammates will be able to cover for him. At the highest level the game is played as a 2 player game more often than not and he will probably thrive in that sort of environment. That being said, I do agree with many that he seems to be slow of foot and if he doesn't grow will have a hard time guarding his position (the 2 at both college and NBA level), needs a consistent outside jumper, needs to be able to create his own shot and needs to be able to get open when being guarded tightly. Either way, he is a high school kid still so he should be able to be just that.

  15. @ TRUE_FAN and others who put a lot of stock in rankings, check out the link I've posted. Its from a very well respected college basketball blog and shows that rankings aren't always right on and are far off in many cases with ranking players coming out of high school. don't assume that the people ranking these kids know as much as people assume they do. they don't usually take into account the many intangibles that make basketball players either successfull or not.


  16. ok, so for all those basketball geniuses out there who dont think this kid is good or going to pan out as a player, please stop posting becasue you are irrelevant. Anyone that is not a fan for UNLV- ala go Bruins, why dont you go troll a UCLA fan page and worry about how your Bruins are going to pan out. As for Shabazz and this article, its a stretch but then again, the more hype we create the more UNLV and his name get tied together.
    Oh and anyone who thinks UNLV doesnt have championship caliber teams, evertime a ticket gets punched tothe dance a championship caliber team is born. Look at Butler, did anyone see that coming, no.

  17. I'm not sure how questioning how good a kid is or how accurate the rankings makes us irrelivant. How about I say that everyone who puts stock in subjective rankings is irrelevant? I, for one, am a UNLV fan. I want them to do well, to become a national power and win as many games as possible. I also think that Shabazz may not be the best fit for the program for a number of reasons, most importantly being that he will only stick around 1 year. That does UNLV very little good and it doesn't raise our stock any that UNLV landed the #1 recruit since he already lives here and is essentially from here. If we can get some high quality recruits from other states, that will help a lot more. I also think we already are on the rise, made the right hire with Rice, and are on the verge of getting more high caliber recruits as well. Just because I'm not sold on Shabazz, doesn't mean that I'm not a UNLV fan.

  18. bballfan,

    Sorry, but I've seen enough WITH MY OWN EYES to know that you are crazy or a hater if you're "not sold on Shabazz."

    You know who is "sold" on Shabazz? The HEAD COACHES for Duke, UCLA, UofA, Kentucky, Kanasas, etc... Is it ok to assume they know what they're talking about?

    "most importantly being that he will only stick around 1 year. That does UNLV very little good and it doesn't raise our stock any that UNLV landed the #1 recruit since he already lives here and is essentially from here."

    Very little good??? You couldn't be more wrong with all of that. Utter nonsense. Not going to go into breaking down everything that's outrageously off base with that statement, but suffice to say the people who do this for a living and know what they are talking about are "sold" on Shabazz despite what you and your favorite internet blogger might think.

  19. So we started off talking about how Shabazz is too good to really come to UNLV and now we are talking about how he isn't really that good? Wow... where to begin.

    Shabazz is "overhyped?" Really? What are you basing your opinion off of? I'm guessing it has nothing to do with seeing him play yourself. Is he the be all/end all number one player in the country? Who really knows? Is he one the very best? Most definitely!

    "Put up against formidable competition, those Texans laid on the whopping." I'm sorry, but do you even follow AAU basketball? That Texas team was a very good team. And apparently you weren't aware that Shabazz went into that game with a high-ankle sprain suffered that morning that left his ankle swollen to the size of a softball (still had 20 points). Also, if you has been following or attenind these games, you would have seen that the day before, Shabazz was getting double and triple teamed every time he got the ball and guess what he did... he set up his teammates who had huge games in the win

    These rankings have very little to do with how a player performs with his high school team because they are all dominant in their areas. It has to do with their AAU performances, and based on Shabazz's, the people that do this for a living rated him number one. Based on your logic, Dantley Walker out in Panaca should have been rated as one of the top recruits in his class nationally because he was dominating third-rate competition.

    Then you provide a link to re-rank the recruiting classes of 6 years ago as proof of something? UNC was rated number 5, but this site listed them number 1 after six years. Kansas was number 1 at the time, but they were dropped to number 2! Hardly a breath-taking drop. Guess what... those rankings are also extremely subjective.

    As far as Shabazz not being good for the program or not making a difference, that's laughable. Signing the number 1 recruit in a class gets the school publicity. It gains our new staff notoriety. Other top level players want to play with the best. Even if he is local, he's a player that we will have gone up against Duke, UCLA and Kentucky for and came out on top.

    And your dig at Gorman athletics speaks volumes about your own personal agenda.

  20. I guess I will just have to agree to disagree with a few of you. I won't address everything in the last two posts, but will address a few.

    First, I base my opinions on my own experience coaching basketball in this town for the past 9 seasons and yes, I have seen Shabazz in person quite a bit over the last 7 years and have coached against him quite a few times.

    Second, my not being sold on him as the best player in the country or even the best option for UNLV doesn't make me a hater, it makes me honest. I'm not going to bother reading these stories and spend time posting bs that I don't believe. I could be wrong, but I stand by my opinion and I guess we will see in a couple of years how things with him pan out.

    Third, I realize that the college coaches going after him know what they are doing. they have also been wrong in the past which is why I don't take the fact that they are recruiting the kid to mean he is the next big thing. Again, i could be wrong on the kid and he may go to Duke or UNLV and be the player of the year in the country, but I just don't buy it based on what I've seen.

    Lastly, I don't remember making a specific dig at Gorman athletics. I don't actually have a problem with Gorman athletics per se, but I do think they shouldn't be able to play vs. public schools who don't have the resources or facilities to compete. I don't believe that they recruit because they don't have to. All a kid has to do is visit the campus to know they have the best facilities in town and thats all it takes for a lot of these kids. The national TV exposure etc. that athletes who play the sports Gorman puts effort into is another plus for them. As long as they are doing right by the kids who play athletics at their school, I'm fine with what they do.

    I don't come on here to bash people. My intent was to provide a different opinion and instead of getting constructive responses I was told what an idiot I am for not believing what everyone else seems to believe. It would be nice if that would happen at some point on this site, but it seems a far way off.

  21. @ BBallfan

    My post was less in response to anything you said as much as it was in response to some ideas addressed by a previous poster. I'm glad you have solid experience on which to base your opinions. The comment about Gorman certainly was not directed at you, but at TeamSG1 who refered to Gorman as "#1 for recruiting violations."

    I am 100% in agreement with you regarding Gorman as far as who they play and the fact that they don't really need to recruit. When I played sports at Eldorado, I hated playing Gorman because of the unfair advantage they have when playing public schools, which has only increased since my days in high school. That being said, if my son is a good enough athlete, I will do everything in my power to get him into Gorman. As far as the competition, Vegas isn't big enough for their to be a private league and a public league and travelling to play out of state all the time would cost too much... even for them.

    I'm just not sure I buy the idea that he isn't a good fit for UNLV. Forget whether he is overhyped or not, simply from a marketing standpoint, signing Shabazz would be huge. It will be similar to Anthony Marshall choosing to play at UNLV over other "better" programs, except magnified even more because of the hype. Basketball-wise, I just can't agree with your assessment of Shabazz based on what I saw myself over the course of the AAU tournament in town. Teams were able to disrupt him for periods of time, but in the end he usually exploded at some point and took over the game. I also have to believe with the amount of pure talent he has, this UNLV coaching staff will be able to elevate him to another level.

    As you said, we'll just agree to disagree. The important thing is what we do agree on, and that is that Dave Rice & Co. are well on their way to returning UNLV to greatness!

  22. Until we prove that we can land a top recruit, which hasn't happened in over a decade.....I don't believe we have any shot at the #1 ranked HS player. I don't care if he plays locally, we have no shot. Where have all of the other top ranked local talent gone in recent years? Not UNLV.

    For those who questioned my comment about not getting drafted into the NBA, re-read my original comment. I said if he doesn't make it to the NCAA tourney in his FIRST year, he won't be drafted into the NBA his FIRST year. He'll have to wait a yr or two.....anything less than a tournament appearance during their freshman year for the number 1 ranked HS player is considered a failure. I could care less if you disagree with me, it's the way it is.

    Let's see how good the new coach and his staff are at recruiting.....it doesn't get any better than this....number 1 prospect out of HS, coached by his brother. If he can't get him to play for UNLV, we have no chance of recruiting top talent ever....and need to hire a real coach, with a big name that can recruit, like I've said all along.

  23. Hey Sinatra... ever heard of Wink Adams?


    Guess being rated 5 stars and #25 overall in his class doesn't qualify as being a "top recruit." That'd be class of 2005 as well... less than a "decade" ago. Just sayin.