Wednesday, April 12, 2017 | 2 a.m.
College basketball’s spring signing period opens today, and that could bring about a flurry of activity for UNLV.
The Rebels have two open scholarships at the moment, but further roster erosion could free up one or two more spots before the end of the offseason. That means Marvin Menzies could be bringing in a fairly large class of newcomers, and now that he’s had a full year on the job, it appears as though Menzies is targeting more quality players than last offseason’s rushed recruiting effort.
Menzies recently said he is looking to add experienced players to the incoming class and that he is considering a number of junior college prospects, and there are talented options on the market at positions of need for the Rebels.
Before the letters of intent start rolling in and the dominoes begin to fall, let’s take a quick snapshot of UNLV’s roster situation and some of the options on the market:
Spring signing primer
Departing players: 6 (Tyrell Green, Christian Jones, Uche Ofoegbu, Jalen Poyser, Troy Baxter, Zion Morgan)
Committed: 4 (Anthony Smith, Jay Green, Tervell Beck, Mbacke Diong)
Open scholarships: 2
McCoy remains the Rebels’ top target. He currently has UNLV in his final five, and a source told me that the powerful 6-foot-10 post prospect was unofficially down to three, with the Rebels still alive as a possible destination. Then McCoy said in an interview over the weekend that he was down to two, though he declined to name them.
So is UNLV still in the running? McCoy has kept his recruitment under wraps all year and hasn’t even said whether he’ll make his decision during the spring period, so everything is shrouded in mystery. But he's the biggest recruit on the Rebels' radar right now, and Menzies will be waiting along with the rest of us until McCoy makes his decision.
The nation’s top junior college prospect was reportedly in town for a visit over the weekend, and anytime Menzies gets a chance to make his pitch face-to-face, the Rebels have a chance. Juiston, a 6-foot-7 forward, would help shore up two immediate needs for UNLV, as he’s a proven finisher and rebounder (17.3 points, 12.3 rebounds per game, 60.9 FG% last year at Hutchinson CC). He’s also considering Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma, among other schools.
Juiston led Hutchinson to the junior college national championship, earning tournament MVP honors. With a visit to Iowa State set for this weekend and a Kansas visit reportedly planned for later this month, it doesn’t seem like Juiston will be deciding soon.
UNLV struggled with outside shooting last season, and Menzies is trying to rectify that by pursuing some junior college guards with major 3-point range. Edwards is one of the top options on the market after scoring 13.6 points per game and hitting 46.6 percent of his 3-pointers for Northwest Florida State CC last year.
“He’s great at going and just getting a bucket,” said Northwest Florida State coach Steve DeMeo. “If you need a bucket late in the shot clock, that’s his strength. And knocking down open 3s — he made a ton of game winners for us.”
DeMeo said the 6-foot-4 guard will visit UNLV next weekend. He’s already visited Iowa State, and an LSU visit is set for this weekend. Once Edwards finishes up his UNLV trip, he’ll make a decision between those three schools.
Darrington is another sharpshooting juco option gaining momentum on the recruiting trail after he posted 20.7 points per game while making 43.3 percent of his 3-point shots at Vincennes last year. According to a source, Darrington is planning to visit UNLV at some point, and available playing time is the most important factor in his decision. That bodes well for the Rebels, who have plenty of minutes to give to shot-makers, but Darrington is also considering Memphis, Nebraska and Tennessee.
Another guard option from the juco ranks, Booker averaged 9.8 points and 6.4 assists per game last year at the College of Southern Idaho. A Las Vegas native, he played high school ball at Agassi Prep and his uncle Vince Booker is a former Runnin’ Rebel. The younger Booker currently holds offers from UMass, Loyola-Marymount, Long Beach State and a handful of other mid-major programs. UNLV hasn’t offered yet, but Rebels coaches have seen him play in person and been in contact with his juco coaches.
If Menzies wants to bring in an experienced hand at point guard, Booker could be the guy.
“I would definitely be interested [in UNLV],” Booker said. “My uncle went there, so it would be nice to continue that. I’m just letting it play out. I’m getting interest from other schools, so I’ll see what happens and maybe make a decision in late April or May.”
If Menzies does decide to dip into the high school class for another recruit, Goldwire seems to be a likely option. A three-star prospect from Georgia, the 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 11 points and five assists last year for a high school squad that was loaded with Division I talent.
Goldwire profiles as a tough defender and team leader who could serve a one-year apprenticeship under Jordan Johnson in 2017-18 before taking on a larger role for his final three seasons. He’s got offers from Hofstra and Mercer, but if UNLV wants him, I get the sense he’s there for the taking. Menzies may be waiting to see how his roster shakes out after the signing period before making a move on Goldwire.
Hardy recently de-committed from Oklahoma State after coach Brad Underwood left for Illinois, and Menzies was quick to reach out to the 6-foot-2 point guard. The competition for Hardy is a little stiffer than Goldwire, however. In addition to UNLV, he’s also considering Georgia, Georgia Tech and Arkansas.
Hardy averaged 29 points, four assists and six steals per game as a senior at North Farmington (Mich.) last year. He told the Detroit Free Press that he plans to take visits and make a decision by the end of the signing period on May 17, and his high school coach told me that UNLV is "heavily involved" in his recruitment.