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Rebels basketball:

UNLV targets are teammates in the summer, rivals come fall

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Mikayla Whitmore

Charles O’Bannon Jr., of the Las Vegas Prospects, plays in the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic at Desert Pines High School on Thursday, July 23, 2015.

Las Vegas Prospects vs. BBA Hoops

Charles O'Bannon Jr (25) from the Las Vegas Prospects takes a shot during the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic at Desert Pines High School on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Secondary market tickets to the 2012 Bishop Gorman vs. Findlay Prep game were going for more than $200. Every seat at the Cox Pavilion was filled, and occupying one of them was a young player from Arizona who fell in love with the Pilots and then made sure he was good enough to eventually become one.

“That was a crazy game,” said Las Vegas Prospects guard Markus Howard. “It was ridiculous, just a great atmosphere to be around.”

Howard’s travel team was in Las Vegas for an event and made sure to get in the building because he’s been following Findlay Prep since another high school star in Gilbert, Ariz., Nick Johnson, transferred into the program in 2009. Howard, a 5-foot-11 guard ranked No. 31 in the class of 2017, decided in April to transfer from Perry High to the nationally renowned program in Henderson, though as soon as he learned there was interest the decision was already made.

“It was Findlay all the way,” Howard said. “That was the one school I really wanted to see myself at, and when they got in contact with me I was all for it.”

As a versatile guard capable of scoring 30 against quality competition, Howard is getting a lot of national interest. And like a lot of his Findlay Prep and Las Vegas Prospects teammates, Howard is also getting a lot of attention from UNLV.

Four players on the Prospects — Centennial High’s Troy Brown Jr., Bishop Gorman’s Chuck O’Bannon Jr., and Findlay Prep’s O’Shea Brissett and Howard — hold scholarship offers from the Rebels, and at least three more current Pilots — class of 2016 guard Skylar Mays and class of 2017 forwards P.J. Washington and Donnie Tillman — also have offers from UNLV on the table.

After the Prospects’ win Thursday at Desert Pines High in the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic, O’Bannon and Howard said they’ve been talking a lot with UNLV coach Dave Rice and assistant Todd Simon. For O’Bannon, who plays for Rice’s brother, Grant, at Gorman, the attention is welcome since he’s had to fight to get noticed on the Gaels’ recent rosters.

“My freshman year I felt that I was really underrated,” O’Bannon said. “Now that I’m being noticed more it’s more relieving, but it’s still not done yet.”

Most of Gorman’s scoring load left for college with Chase Jeter at Duke, Stephen Zimmerman Jr. at UNLV and Nick Blair at Idaho. That leaves a lot of opportunity for O’Bannon, whose profile started to shoot up the charts toward the end of the 2014-15 season.

On 247Sports’ composite rankings, O’Bannon is currently just a few slots down from Howard at No. 40. Right behind him at No. 49 is Brissett, while Brown is the valley’s top overall prospect at No. 7.

Brissett isn’t playing in this week’s live event, the last chance of the summer for college coaches to scout players, but the Prospects were still able to go 3-0 and win their pool. Tournament play for them starts at 9:05 a.m. today on the main court at Rancho High.

After a successful first run in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, the top travel circuit in the country, the Prospects would love to end the season with a tournament victory. That doesn’t mean there isn’t another certain game already on some of their minds, though.

The 2012 Findlay-Gorman showdown, which featured a great Shabazz Muhammad vs. Winston Shepard battle on the court and public figures such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in the stands, moved the Pilots to 4-0 in the series. Since then Gorman has gone 1-2, with last year’s loss coming at the buzzer.

Howard wanted to come to Findlay Prep for the competition and big games like the one against Gorman. Soon enough he’ll get his chance to add to the rivalry, and by that time his current teammate will be waiting in opposition to add to his own budding profile.

“One of our biggest goals every season is to beat Findlay Prep,” O’Bannon said. “I think we have a good chance this year.”

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

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