Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 | 2:02 p.m.
- Rebels’ biggest freshman provides best look at potential of 2012-13 squad
- Bryce Dejean-Jones expected to miss at least a month with fractured hand
- The Rebels’ Justin Hawkins raises the bar for Twitter conversations
- As first practice looms, UNLV basketball puts in work for much-anticipated season
- All UNLV coverage
Jelan Kendrick woke up Saturday morning in a state of calm. The comfort of his decision to commit to the UNLV basketball team washed over him the same way glowing neon had the night before.
“The lights get you once you get here,” Kendrick said.
He’ll see a lot more of them next season when he returns to Las Vegas as a member of UNLV’s 2013-14 recruiting class.
A former McDonald’s All-American, Kendrick is an oft-traveled wing who made stops at Memphis and Ole Miss before committing to UNLV. This year he’ll play at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and then come to UNLV as a redshirt junior.
Kendrick is in Las Vegas for an official visit and he was at both of UNLV’s first two practices, though he only needed to see the first one to make up his mind. Kendrick said he and his father, Lonnie, who’s on this trip with him, weren’t planning on making a decision while they were in town. Kendrick wanted to go home, plan some other visits and weigh all the positives and negatives.
But from the lights, to the coaches and the players he met while on campus, Kendrick loved everything too much to leave undecided. His commitment broke at about halftime of UNLV’s football game against UNR, back when things were still looking good. If nothing else, this announcement may comfort a lot of broken-hearted Rebels fans.
“It ended up being an easy decision,” Kendrick said. “By this morning I was ready to come here and be a part of the UNLV brand.”
Kendrick, a 6-foot-7 perimeter player, originally committed to Memphis, but he was kicked off the team before ever playing a game. He then transferred to Ole Miss for his redshirt freshman season. Things were going well until, before a game against Alabama, Kendrick went into the stands to grab his girlfriend and then left. He returned to the end of the Ole Miss bench during the first half but didn’t move from his spot. Needless to say, things didn't work out after that.
Those incidents obviously bring up a lot of questions about him, but Kendrick said that’s all in the past and he’s focused on the future. He’s also not worried about proving himself to people who may doubt him because of those previous stops.
“I’m more in competition with proving something to myself than I am with proving something to others,” Kendrick said.
What isn’t in question is his ability. Kendrick seems like a good fit for the up-tempo style UNLV coach Dave Rice is pushing his players toward. Watching that pace in practice, and how the Rebels were helping each other up and not being negative, got Kendrick excited, and he became even more comfortable after talking to the players, who told him what you see is what you get.
“A lot of visits they hype things up and once you get there it’s nothing like you thought it was,” Kendrick said. “Here, nothing seems sugar coated.”
Kendrick is the second commit in the 2013-14 recruiting class and the third overall member. Findlay Prep forward Chris Wood has also made a verbal commitment while Lincoln High guard Dantley Walker signed a letter of intent and will join UNLV next year after finishing his two-year Mormon mission.
That fills up the three spots vacated by seniors Justin Hawkins, Anthony Marshall and Quintrell Thomas, but the team is also treating junior Mike Moser as a senior since he’s expected to declare for the NBA draft. So there’s a scholarship to work with and there could be even more if freshman Anthony Bennett would also declare for the draft, but that’s something the coaching staff will figure out as the season wears on.
For now they know they’re getting a talented kid who believes he has put any past issues behind him. And for whatever he’s been through, Kendrick doesn’t lack for confidence. He knows UNLV is his last chance and he intends to make the most of it.
“I want to come here for one reason only and that’s to win the whole thing,” Kendrick said. “I want to bring the trophy back to Vegas. That’s what I want to do.”