Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 | 6:59 p.m.
The UNLV basketball team may soon add a McDonald’s All-American, as Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch will reportedly announce his decision Sunday night between the Rebels and the University of Florida.
Birch, a 6-foot-9 power forward, is in Las Vegas at least through Sunday morning and watched the Rebels practice Saturday. He was not made available for comment, but The RecruitScoop.com reported that he narrowed his choices to UNLV and Florida.
A Montreal native, Birch averaged 4.4 points and five rebounds in 10 games at Pittsburgh. He started six games but left because he didn’t feel like he fit with the Panthers’ offensive system.
Adam Zagoria tweeted that Birch’s mom, who is also in Las Vegas, said her son would “decide his school (Sunday) night.” Birch’s coach with AAU team CIA Bounce Canada, Mike George, is also in town and accompanied Birch at practice.
After taking some time off in Canada, Birch spent this week making visits, starting Tuesday at Florida. Birch watched the Gators’ 79-61 victory against UAB on Tuesday night and then met with coach Billy Donovan and the players.
“I had a great time at Florida,” Birch told TheRecruitScoop.com on Thursday. “I bonded with coach Donovan and the rest of the staff, as well as the players. I fit in with their system very well and like the campus, too.”
Then on Wednesday, Birch traveled west to visit New Mexico State, where he has connections with a couple of current Aggies.
“It's kind of different from the East Coast but I like it,” Birch told the Las Cruces Sun-News on Thursday. “It (East vs. West) kind of factors into it a little because I'm more used to the East Coast. But I feel like I can gel with the West Coast. I'm not worried about where I'm going. I just want to be happy and be comfortable.”
Birch is friends with Findlay Prep senior forward Anthony Bennett, and his transfer decision could influence where Bennett plays next season. Both UNLV and Florida are in Bennett’s top-nine list of schools.
The Rebels have had success with a 6-foot-9 player from Montreal before: Joel Anthony, who played two seasons at UNLV, ranks second in blocked shots for both a single season (109 in 2007) and career (157). He’s currently in his fifth season with the Miami Heat.