Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 | 5:30 p.m.
- Analysis: Taking a look at some important games on the UNLV basketball schedule (11-9-2011)
- Anthony Marshall out for opener for secondary NCAA violation in honest mistake (11-8-2011)
- Gorman’s Ben Carter chooses Oregon over UNLV and Utah (11-7-2011)
- Kendall Wallace’s shooting highlights UNLV scrimmage victory over LMU (11-6-2011)
- Carlos Lopez out indefinitely with severely sprained right ankle (11-4-2011)
- UNLV downs Washburn in ugly, gritty exhibition opener, 58-50 (11-2-2011)
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
Demetris Morant brings fans to their feet
Demetris Morant didn’t start playing basketball until his freshman year in high school. And, as the 6-foot-8 Bishop Gorman High forward describes it, his performances left a lot to be desired.
“I couldn’t do anything,” Morant said. “I had no skills on offense or defense. But I had desire. I wanted it and I worked hard every day.”
Some three years later the high-flying Morant could be one of the gems in the UNLV basketball team’s first recruiting class under new coach Dave Rice.
Morant was one of three recruits to sign national letters of intent Wednesday to play at UNLV, joining Baltimore point guard Daquan Cook and shooting guard Katin Reinhardt of Mater Dei in Southern California.
Morant is still a work in progress offensively, but he has tremendous upside and is a force near the basket with his ability to block or alter shots. He also can easily bring the crowd to their feet with his tremendous dunking ability.
Morant wasn’t even a starter last year on a deep Gorman roster, which includes three top-100 prospects in Rosco Allen (Stanford), Ben Carter (Oregon) and Shabazz Muhammad (undecided), the nation’s consensus top recruit. But his raw ability attracted several schools; he received scholarship offers from Memphis, San Diego State and New Mexico, and ranked as a top 150 recruit by evaluating site Rivals.com.
“He is coming around but he still has to improve on offense, and he knows that,” said Gorman coach Grant Rice, the younger brother of UNLV’s Rice. “He brings so much athleticism to the game on the defensive end with rebounding and blocked shots. He will be a great player for us this year and a great fit for the Rebels and their style of play.”
Morant averaged seven points per game last year for Gorman in a relief role, but is expected to be more of a contributor this winter. He’s more comfortable playing in transition — which fits into UNLV’s up-tempo style — but realizes making an impact on the next level will require being more polished in the post.
Former Rebel Warren Rosegreen (a fierce rebounder and defender from 1995-97) has spent countless hours this offseason working with Morant. The improvements have been obvious, but teacher and pupil realize they are just scratching the surface.
“We’ve had some great workouts, but we’ve also had some just OK workouts,” Rosegreen said. “When he first got to me, he really didn’t know where to go or what to do on the court. As long as he continues being willing to learn, he will be ready to go.”
And nobody can dispute Morant’s dunking ability. On multiple occasions, Morant has stolen the show with one of his dunks.
“I know a dunk or blocked shot is only worth saving two points or making two points, but from an emotional standpoint it is more than that,” Gorman's Rice said
The 6-foot-1 Cook, who turns 17 in December, could be a replacement in the backcourt for senior Oscar Bellfield, who will be a four-year starter this year. Cook’s game is comparable to Sam Cassell, said Dwayne Wise, director of basketball operations for Cook’s AAU team, B’More Under Armour Finest.
“He is very crafty. A lot of people say he is a younger version of Sam Cassell,” Wise said. “His upside is just tremendous. He is very athletic. They are getting a heck of a player.”
Cook, who last year averaged averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game at Digital Harbor High in Baltimore, burst onto the recruiting scene two summers ago when he was named MVP of the 16-U division at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla. Despite not playing much this past spring and summer while attending summer school, he caught the eye of Rice while playing in an event in Milwaukee.
“Daquan will be a terrific point guard in our Runnin’ Rebel system,” Rice said in a statement. “He is a fearless competitor and has a great feel for making his teammates better. He is a team-oriented point, but he is also a very capable scorer.
UNLV assistant Heath Schroyer, a product of DeMatha Catholic High in Maryland, has strong recruiting ties in the Baltimore area in helping to land Cook. Cook also had interest from Washington, Seton Hall, Maryland and Temple, but selected UNLV for his comfort level with Rice and the Rebels’ run-and-gun offensive style.
“I’m a fast-paced player who likes to run and push the tempo,” Cook said. “We’re going to do some exciting things.”
Cook is equally excited about playing alongside Reinhardt, a 6-foot-4 smooth-shooter who picked UNLV over Texas, Baylor and other top schools. He’s arguably the top player of the class and is ranked as the No. 7 shooting guard by Rivals and its No. 45 overall prospect.
“Me and Katin, we are trying to come in there and create a spark from Day One,” Cook said. “From the time we step on campus, we are going to work on building a winning program.”
Rice was equally excited to get Reinhardt in the fold.
“Katin is an electrifying player and a winner,” the coach said. “He greatly values team and is a prolific scorer that has the ability to make plays for his teammates on both ends of the court.