Monday, April 23, 2018 | 2 a.m.
If it’s spring, it means Marvin Menzies is recruiting.
After bringing in talented classes in 2017 and 2018, UNLV's coach is back on the road trying to attract another strong group of newcomers. That pursuit led Menzies to South Carolina last week, where he had an in-home visit with Christian Brown, one of the most talented wing prospects in the country.
The 6-foot-7 Brown is rated as the No. 27 player in the nation by Rivals.com, and he averaged more than 20 points per game as a junior at Lower Richland (S.C.) last season.
Brown said he’s gotten to know Menzies well and that Wednesday’s in-home visit strengthened their burgeoning bond.
“Coach Marvin and I have a really great relationship,” Brown said. “He treats us like family. He’s a good person and a good coach, and my mother loves him. It was a great conversation.”
UNLV has been thorough in its recruitment of Brown. His mother, Melody Davis, said Menzies has been to South Carolina multiple times to see Brown, and newly-named assistant coach Preston Laird was in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to watch all of Brown’s games with his AAU team, which was playing in an Adidas Gauntlet tournament.
Brown was at UNLV for an unofficial visit in September, and he’s planning to take an official visit to the school sometime in May.
“The visit is coming and I’m real excited,” Brown said. “I love being in Las Vegas. There will be a lot of energy, I’ll get to hang out with the coaches and the players. It will be great and we can get closer. I’m real excited about it.”
Brown said he is friendly with several current Rebels and named sophomores Tervell Beck and Amauri Hardy (as well as NBA draft hopeful Brandon McCoy) as players who have been singing the praises of UNLV.
Adding Brown to the Rebels’ core would accelerate UNLV’s rebuilding plan into another gear. His AAU coach, Curtis Wheeler, said Brown projects as a two-way impact player with the versatility to play multiple positions.
“He’s a high energy player,” Wheeler said. “He’s a pogo stick type of athlete. He’s long, athletic, with big wide shoulders. He can play multiple positions. People don’t give him enough credit for his shooting ability. He’s got a good IQ, and he’s got the potential to become an elite-level rebounder and elite defender where I think he can guard the 2, 3 and 4 spots.”
Brown said this spring and summer will be spent working on his ball-handling and outside shooting, and he is making defense a top priority.
“People say I can have a Kawhi Leonard type game on defense,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve been working on my defense and trying to get quicker on D so I can lock down multiple positions.”
While Brown may share some similarities with Leonard’s defensive profile, he’s not quite as humble as the famously understated Spurs’ superstar. When asked for a scouting report on himself, Brown couldn’t help but tout his advanced dunking ability.
“I can shoot, I’m a good driver and slasher,” Brown said, before issuing a lighthearted warning to defenders. “Don’t let me get to the basket or somebody’s going to get on a poster. Highlight reel. That’s what I know I’m good at.”
In addition to UNLV, Davis said Florida, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Clemson had in-home visits with Brown last week.
Davis said Brown is taking college courses now and that academics will be a priority in choosing a college. She also cited the relationship with any potential coaching staff as a key factor in Brown’s decision.
“Academics are important,” Davis said. “A school that has the facilities and technology to keep up with the world. And a good relationship with the head coach, which he has already established with coach Menzies.
“I trust coach Menzies,” she continued. “I think he’s doing it for the right reasons.”
As Menzies continues to put on the full-court press, it sounds like Brown can envision himself as a future Runnin’ Rebel.
“It’s Las Vegas,” Brown said. “I’m cool with a lot of the players up there, and coach Menzies is energized with the future they’re planning.”