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UNLV basketball:

Pittsburgh transfer forward Khem Birch commits to UNLV

Former McDonald’s All-American played 10 games for the Panthers, will be eligible after the fall semester


Associated Press

Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch goes up for a dunk in a three-player dunk contest after their intrasquad NCAA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch verbally committed to UNLV on Monday night, choosing the Rebels over Florida and New Mexico State.

Birch, a 6-foot-9 power forward and former McDonald's All-American, told TheRecruitScoop.com that he was paired with Mike Moser during his visit this weekend and that he sees himself fitting into a similar mold as the 6-foot-8 Moser, who's averaging 14.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

“I really like UNLV,” he told the website. “It was a very tough decision but UNLV is a good fit for me because of the coaches, players and facilities. I will be able to train during my time off. Also, I can develop under a great, young coach in Dave Rice. He and the entire staff made me feel very comfortable in Las Vegas.”

Birch will be one of five newcomers to the Rebels next season, including commits Katin Reinhardt, DaQuan Cook and Demetris Morant, as well as USC transfer Bryce Jones. Birch played 10 games at Pittsburgh, including six starts, averaging 4.4 points and five rebounds per game.

He took an official visit to UNLV from Friday to Sunday with his mother, Wendy Sparks, and his former AAU coach, Mike George. Birch, a Montreal native, had made visits to Florida and New Mexico State earlier in the week.

The Rebels still have another scholarship to fill, and one candidate is Birch's friend Anthony Bennett, a fellow Canadian power forward who's playing at Findlay Prep. Other possibilities include Gorman's Shabazz Muhammad and St. John's transfer big man Norvel Pelle.

Birch will be one of several transfers on the roster, including Moser (UCLA), Jones (USC), Reggie Smith (Marquette) and Chace Stanback (UCLA).

After leaving Pittsburgh unceremoniously, Birch said he's excited to begin anew in Las Vegas.

“For me, it’s a new chapter,” he told TheRecruitScoop.com. “I am looking forward to my experience at UNLV and just enjoying my time as a student athlete in college. I just want to live life, that’s all.”

Check back later for more on this story.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. AWWWWWW MAN!!!! Welcome to the Rebels, Khem!

    Now bring on Bennett! Birch & Bennett Baby!

  2. Very good! This team is getting stacked. It's just amazing in terms of a turnaround the recruiting has been due to the style of play. Go Rebels!

  3. That is freaking sweet! The coaching staff is blowing up!

  4. REBELS REBELS REBELS!! UNLV is well on it's way to being a perennial top 10 team every year. Can't wait to see him in Rebel Scarlet and Gray!

  5. When will Birch be eligible?

  6. Hell Yes!!! Great news for the Rebels. What a job our coaching staff is doing. Smokin hot...

  7. This is a very good pickup. I think they should try their best to land Winston Shepard with their last available scholarship. Shepard could come in and play right away, taking over at the 3 for Stanback.

  8. Excellent choice, young man. Welcome to the "Family" and the scarlet and grey. Coach Rice is getting this thing going faster than anyone hoped or dreamed. Hope this means Bennett is coming too.

  9. Welcome Khem! Great pickup by Rice and staff. Next year's class is easily top 10, even with one scholarship to fill.

  10. @Rebel_Fan. I believe it will be the 1st day after the end of the 1st semester, similar to Reggie Smith this year, but for next season. He is enrolling 2nd semester, and he has to sit out two semesters (one year) for redshirt.

  11. Awesome! Welcome Khem, and congrats to Dave Rice and his staff on another terrific recruiting move.

    I was extremely excited when Rice was hired, knowing that we would finally get back to being the "Runnin'" Rebels, but who knew so much would change so fast.

    Our current guys have done a tremendous job picking up our new style of play, which has not only contributed to their success on the court this year, but is definitely proving to be a big selling point for new recruits.

    Whether it is Muhammad, Bennett, Pelle, or Shepard who rounds out the 2012 recruiting class, we are going to be loaded next year.

    Exciting times for Rebel fans! And its about time--we've waiting long enough. We are back on the national stage and we are here to stay. Go Rebels!

  12. Very, very nice. Congrats to coach Rice and the staff

  13. Nice....Need Norvelle Pelle to really touch this off...he is LEGIT. That kind of shotblocking potential added to this skilled team will be lethal!

  14. Hopefully he will provide a good inside presence.

  15. Wow. A McDonalds All-American! When was the last time we had a McDonalds All-American

  16. What a pickup for Rice & Co.! If they land bazz, bennett, or pelle were final four bound! It's a great time to be a rebel fan!

  17. This is super nice!!! C'mon Shabazz round out this class, Rice would find a way to get Bennett & Muhammad if they both decide. This will be a great team, best in the West & a national contender no doubt about it.

  18. FiveseveN - lamar odom... although he ended up playing somewhere else

  19. i think a sleeping giant has awoken, Thank You Dave Rice for selling Las Vegas to these kids..

    If Shabazz and Anthony want to play here then Kareem's scholarship has got to go..He seems like a good kid but might be time for him to look at a place he could see some real time.

  20. Wow, this is unbelievable the team that Rice and Co. are assembling! I'm already jacked up about this year's team, and to know that next year's team is even more loaded has me excited beyond belief. If next year's team isn't preseason Top 5, then the voters aren't paying attention. In the meantime, the current team moved up to #12 today and have a big game against SDSU on Saturday. It's a great time to be a Rebel fan!

  21. It sucks because I love Karam...but let's just hope that doesn't put Moser in a precarious position because they're housemates. But nonetheless, do we really want a egotistical Shabazz on our team? I see all the comments him and his father make about UNLV and it just looks like they're disinterested or just TOO stuck up....as much as we need a SG ....would still prefer the punk over Bennett because we are far too stacked at the forward position: Thomas and Lopez are our designated centers, Moser, Bryce and Birch (who can play the 4 or 5) at the others. But, you have Demetrius also. So that's six players for those two, maybe 3 positions We need a Stanback type player to fill the void. That certainly won't be Morant because he's more of a excellent defensive player than offense....Bryce? See, still missing that last piece to the puzzle. With bazz, everything is filled. But I prefer someone else lol.

  22. It's pretty amazing the amount of transfers that are flowing in to the desert (I've lost track of the recent number of transfers over the past 3 years). I think what is even more amazing is how those transfers are turning their game on (given the chance to play), and how it's reflecting with Reb's performance. Let UK and John (I won't get caught) Calipari have all of their one and done, I like the fact that the Reb's are picking up these transfers and the success that is now starting to show for it.

  23. This dandy news gives me trills of pleasure up and down my spine!

  24. We're kind of like BYU with their missionaries, these transfers have time to mature physically and mentally and we get them at there best.. one reason I wouldn't feel bad if kareem were to leave or lose his scholarship..he flat out told the coaches he didn't want to redshirt even though lon told him he would get no playing time, not smart..

  25. Good pick up, yet the stats are off a little bit. He left the team for lack of minutes played, he was under performing in Pitt. His season average stats are: 15 min per game, 4.4 points per game, 1.9 bks per game. HOPE THAT HE CAN LIVE UP TO ALL AMERICAN STATUS AT UNLV, for he could not in Pitt..

  26. Pitt style of play isnt as FAST as Rebels. Square peg in round hole @ Pitt, IMO

  27. As for Karam Mashour, I feel bad because he is wasting on bench for...Clearly better than Kendall.....BUT Bryce Jones has been the best player in practice.....Rebs are stacked at guard.......The only thing stopping them from Final four potential is a mean streak, driven shotblocker type......I know Ive screamed it for a while, but teams have to have some attitude, and character...as wella s some creativeness......i think Katin Reinhardt will bring some fantastic creative ness...Bryce is going to be a stud.......and Moser is legit......Shot blocker seals the deal...NORVELLE PELLE ...PLEASEEEEE

  28. @ runninrebaussie- I have to agree on your point bout Shabazz....Chemistry right now is peaking.....and that is way underrated.....Dont forget that When Tre Willis got here he beefed with Wink...thne last year, Rebs each came out strong while he was suspended.....had Pitino calling us the best defensive team in country....then as soon as he came back, Stanback and Bellefield went into a shell......Point is, chemistry is very important....having said that I dont know much about Shabazz, and his teamwork.......Go rebss.....

  29. As to the transfers, none of them on the current team, Stanback, Moser or even Tre Willis had anything other than 1-4 points a game averages where they were.....sometimes kids have to mature....there are lots of reasons why they underperformed.....but lest we forget that extra year or two makes a big difference, when they are 25 yr old seniors....Think Kevin kruger...and a host of others.......Like someone said, mixing in one and done players is hard. I like this team a lot.....

  30. Pitt had hiim at the 5, and he isn't a 5 player. That's probably the biggest reason he left Dixon's squad.

    The best thing about transfers is you know what you are getting, and Birch is for real if you had seen him play. Also, can't transfer twice, so they tend to stick around a little longer. I also heard one of the ways UNLV got on his radar is from watching the UNC game. TV and viewership mean more than people think. The TV "deal" needs to go.

  31. Great pickup for UNLV. Birch won't light up the score board but he'll definitely fill up the stat sheet. We'll be looking at a good 10+ rebounds and 5+ blocks every game, just what the Rebels needed inside.

    Those of you talking about Shabazz being arrogant, I've watched interviews with him and I've watched him play, and he doesn't seem to be overly arrogant. Him and his dad are keeping his recruitment very close to the vest, but I don't think either of them thinks UNLV is a lesser choice.

  32. @UNLV-123- I agree. Ive listened to Shabazz on the local radio interviews and for being the #1 recruit in the country I think he is very humble. He just doesnt let out too much about where he wants to play, not about UNLV, Kentucky, Kansas or anywhere else. That being said, he could only help any team he went to including UNLV and please dont compare him with Tre'Von. He is a much better player than Willis. There is NO Comparison.

  33. Probably also a good idea to refrain from referring to a very highly rated local player whom we are recruiting very hard "egotistical" or "a punk." Let's try to be a little classier than those idiot Pitt fans who are bashing Birch left and right now that he left them. Shabazz is a mature young man and I doubt he and his father would waste time showing up to practices regularly if there wasn't a genuine interest there.

    Between Shabazz and Anthony Bennett, AB probably fills more of a need because we are going to be loaded in the back court next season. Either way, we can't go wrong if we pick up either of those players. If both want to come, Rice and co. will figure out a way and it will not include stripping a player of his scholarship. You never want to get the reputation as a school that will take a scholarship away once a kid shows up.

  34. First welcome to UNLV Khem (I arrived in 89') look forward to seeing you play. A lot has changed since UNLV's quick departure from the NCAA tourney last year. A change of staff, playing style, facilities and philosophy has excelled the process of recapturing some of that old feeling of UNLV basketball tradition.
    Continued success boys! Go Rebs!

  35. Birch, Bennett Bazz, Jones, AM, Jhawk, Moser, Lopez, QT, think of how deep an already deep team is going to get. The practice squad this year has players teams would die to have and adding Birch to it while he redshirts is only going to make it better. the guy averaged 1.9 blocks a game in 10 games, thats pretty good, and his blocks were works of art... One more piece left, whose going to come and get it?

  36. Anthony Bennett would dominate next to Moser. As a freshman no matter where he balls he will be a consistant double double every night. Mix that with Moser & Lopez up front, super hard to stop. The back court is already stacked even without Shabazz, Bryce Jones could play the 2, Reinhardt can play either spot & will be a superstar, Marshall, Hawkins,, Smith, & dont sleep on Cook who is the best baller in B-More. There are so many options & possibilites with this team. Either way this team could contend for a final 4 spot & that should be their goal.

  37. @jedwards while I agree Bennett would dominate next to Moser, that Moser will still be here next season isn't a guarantee. Nbadraft.net shows Moser as a first round pick and a top 20 selection. He its getting a lot of attention from the next level and would be crazy to not at the minimum test the waters and get an idea of where he could go.

    I'm excited about the Birch signing because it should help replace the triumph and athleticism we'd lose of Moser chooses to enter the draft. Coach Rice's most important recruit may actually be Moser.

  38. @kbc, you mean Coach Kruger's most important recruit?

  39. I already posted a while back that Moser should be a 1 & done. If you have the chance to go in the first round, you go in my opinion. You do not pass up the opportunity or 1st round money if its there. I guess we'll all see what materializes, either way the Rebels are still loaded & sitting pretty.

  40. Moser is by no means a one and done. He's so under developed. More like kawhi Leonard from the year before last. He wasn't foolish enough to go like some players are and end up writing the bench their entire NBA careers. Moser has AT LEAST another year left. His size and a bunch of other areas of his game needs work...work in the next level of course.

  41. Personally Id rather get Anthony Bennet than Shabazz. I just think he'd fit the needs better. Reminds me a little of Larry Johnson. Big dude. With alot of offensive game, and little mean streak. Shabazz AND Bennet has GOT to equate to a Top 3 preseason ranking. DAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

  42. Just saw on the 11pm (EST) Sportscenter that Doug Gottlieb ranked UNLV's own Mike Moser as one of his top 5 players in the country. As with our ranking in the polls, it is nice to once again see us getting some much deserved respect on the national stage.