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UNLV hosts 2018 recruit Joel Ntambwe on official visit


Steve Marcus

UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies watches the Rebels take on the San Jose State Spartans at the Thomas and Mack Center Wednesday Jan. 31, 2018.

UNLV has two incoming recruits signed for the Class of 2018, but it's no secret that the Rebels are still busy on the recruiting trail, looking for more reinforcements.

With Jovan Mooring and Jordan Johnson set to graduate, and Bryce Hamilton and Trey Woodbury slated to join the team as freshmen next year, the scholarship situation seems set. But in the likely event that current freshman Brandon McCoy declares for the NBA draft, another roster spot will open up early in the offseason.

So UNLV is still working on the Class of 2018, searching for additions who can continue to advance the team's rebuilding process.

One player the Rebels are hoping to add is Joel Ntambwe, a 6-foot-9 forward who is currently playing his senior season at Aspire Academy in Louisville. Ntambwe is a rugged defender with enough offensive polish to play in the frontcourt or the backcourt, and on Wednesday he was in Las Vegas on an official visit to UNLV.

Ntambwe met with the team and coaching staff, toured the campus and facilities, and took in the Rebels' game against Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Center, watching UNLV pull away late for an 81-73 win.

Ntambwe has UNLV among his final four college choices, along with Wichita State, UCLA and Tennessee. He plans to eventually make his way to the other three schools, but UNLV was his first official visit, and he said he enjoyed the experience.

"The visit went pretty well," Ntambwe said. "It was a good game against Air Force. I liked the way [UNLV] played and how hard they competed. The facilities are amazing. They've got everything a top school has. It's beautiful."

Ntambwe plays a versatile role at Aspire Academy, defending multiple positions and assuming point-forward responsibilities on a team that is stuffed with Division I prospects. Ntambwe is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, and ESPN lists him as the No. 37 power forward in the nation.

UNLV was one of the first teams to start recruiting him seriously, and Ntambwe has developed a strong bond with the Rebels coaches.

"I have a great relationship with coach [Marvin] Menzies and coach Andre LaFleur," Ntambwe said. "They've been recruiting me for a year, so we've gotten to know each other. The thing I really, really like about coach Menzies is that we didn't talk about basketball. He didn't care about basketball, because the basketball will take care of itself. He wanted to talk to me to make sure I better myself as a person. He asked how I was doing, asked about me off the court, and didn't put too much basketball into the recruiting process. From there, we built a really good relationship. I had a good feeling that they are really good people."

Ntambwe is planning to take official visits to his other three finalists before making a college decision, so an announcement isn't likely to come soon. But when it is time to decide, winning will factor heavily into his choice.

"First, I'm trying to go to a winning program," he said. "And the second thing, I'm trying to go to a program where I'm going to be able to get there and make an impact to win a lot of games and probably make it to the tournament and go deep."

Bassey on Rebels' radar

Ntambwe wasn't the only Aspire Academy prospect on campus for the Air Force game. His teammate, 6-foot-10 junior center Charles Bassey, also tagged along, though his visit was unofficial.

Bassey is a five-star talent, and Rivals has him pegged as the No. 3 player in the Class of 2019.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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