Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 | 2 a.m.
When Marvin Menzies goes on the road to recruit high school prospects, he might as well wear a sign around his neck that reads, “Scorers wanted.”
Offensive talent is a clear and pressing need for the UNLV program, as demonstrated by the Rebels’ disastrous shooting percentages this season. In order to get the rebuild started, Menzies needs players who can score, no matter what grade they’re in or what position they play.
Given that shopping list, it makes sense that one of the young players UNLV has targeted is Class of 2018 guard Bryce Hamilton.
Hamilton, a 6-foot-4 lefty, is finishing up his junior year at Pasadena (Calif.) High School, and his ability to put the ball in the basket has drawn serious interest from the Rebels. After assistant coach Eric Brown watched Hamilton score 27 points in a state playoff game two weeks ago, Menzies was on the phone the next day to offer him a scholarship.
It’s the latest but not the last offer coming Hamilton’s way. A recent growth spurt and a promising showing on the AAU circuit last summer have combined to increase his buzz in recruiting circles, and his exquisite performance for Pasadena this winter has solidified his status as a fast riser. Rivals.com rates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 102 player in his class, and if he plays well for his club team again this summer, there's no telling how high he could climb in the rankings.
UNR has already offered Hamilton, and interested schools such as UCLA, Butler, Arizona State and Gonzaga could follow suit.
Menzies is probably willing to slug it out with those schools because of Hamilton’s scouting report. His AAU coach is Dinos Trigonis, who also runs one of the most prominent summer camps in the country, and Trigonis thinks Hamilton can be a legitimate No. 1 scoring option at the college level, even going so far as to compare him to one of the NBA’s most explosive backcourt players.
“He’s a very complete guard,” Trigonis said. “He’s probably a combo guard in college. He can shoot the 3, long arms, can get to the basket off the dribble. He’s kind of scrawny but athletic, and skilled, kind of like a Jamal Crawford.”
Hamilton opts for another NBA role model when crafting his game.
“People say I kind of play like James Harden,” Hamilton said. “We’re both left-handed, so I try to emulate his game. I believe I can do it all, like him.”
After receiving the offer from UNLV, Hamilton went out and dropped 29 points in Pasadena’s 75-66 win over Peninsula on Friday, earning the Bulldogs a spot in the CIF South Section championship game on Friday.
With Hamilton leading the way, Pasadena is riding a 19-game win streak into the CIF SS final, where they’ll face Harvard-Westlake and elite 2019 wing Cassius Stanley. There are bound to be numerous college coaches in the stands for that showdown, but UNLV is getting into the battle early enough to have a shot at landing Hamilton.
“He’s still wide open, because I don’t think he’s had a chance to get to know these coaches on a personal level,” Trigonis said. “It will probably take a little time, through the spring and summer, to start developing relationships with them. That’s not an exact timetable, but he’s not as well known as other guys in that class who have been talking to these coaches for a long time.”
Though his recruitment is just starting to pick up speed, Hamilton should be plenty familiar with the process. His father, Kevin Hamilton, played college basketball at UTEP, and his older brother, Blake Hamilton, is a senior currently averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game at Buffalo. He also has four cousins with NCAA experience, including former NBA player Jordan Hamilton and current UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton.
After watching so many close family members commit to Division I programs, Hamilton should know what to look for in a school.
“With his dad being a former college basketball player, I think they’ll be thorough in considering everybody who has genuine interest,” Trigonis said. “He’s going to pick the best fit, not the biggest school. His brother plays at Buffalo, so I think the family realizes it’s not always that biggest school that ends up being the best fit.”
It’s up to Menzies and his staff to convince Hamilton that UNLV is the right fit despite the current state of the program. The good news is that Menzies’ Los Angeles background could come into play, as Kevin Hamilton remembers Menzies from their high school playing days and believes the Rebels are in good hands.
“We know UNLV changed coaches, and I know Menzies is a good coach and an L.A. guy,” Kevin Hamilton said. “We go way back to my days at Crenshaw, when he was at Hamilton [High School]. He did an extremely good job at New Mexico State. They’re trying to build [at UNLV] now, and that could be an interesting situation for Bryce. At the end of the day, he wants to go somewhere that fits his style of play.”
Hamilton said that UNLV is on his radar.
“I’m starting to hear from a lot of Pac-12 schools and major conferences,” Hamilton said. “It’s still early in the process, so I’m probably going to wait until the end of the summer to start thinking about it more seriously. Coach Brown and I have a little bit of a relationship, and we talk every now and then. I know [UNLV is] a good school and they have history. What I’m looking for is academics first.”
UNLV is looking for scoring first, and now the Rebels have until the end of the summer to let Hamilton know just how much he’s wanted.