November 19, 2018 Currently: 48° | Complete forecast

UNLV’s Menzies taking more tactical approach to recruiting

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UNLV coach Marvin Menzies signals to his players against Utah during their MGM Main Event game at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017.

For Marvin Menzies, the 2019 recruiting class is all about working smarter, not harder.

When Menzies took over as head coach of the UNLV basketball program in the summer of 2016, the Rebels were buried in a deep hole when it came to recruiting. Due to graduations, early draft declarations and transfers, Menzies found himself having to add 10 new scholarship players that summer. That was hard work.

The situation didn’t improve much with Menzies’ second recruiting class, as he had to replace seven scholarship players. The incoming 2018 class included a more reasonable four players, and it seems as though the Rebels are finally back on a normal recruiting cycle, with a roster balanced among seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen going forward.

With seniors Shakur Juiston and Kris Clyburn on track to graduate after the 2018-19 season, UNLV is projected to have two open scholarships for the 2019 class. That has allowed Menzies to tailor his strategy and take a more targeted approach on the recruiting trail.

For the first time, Menzies and his staff have had adequate time to evaluate potential recruits and zero in on the players they really want — and they can do it years ahead of time.

“The biggest difference is we’re not recruiting as many players,” Menzies said, “which obviously changes the dynamics because we’ll have a little more time to build relationships and dig a little deeper into the character of the young men we’re bringing in, watch them more, and just be more sure of who we want. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re always going to want you, but you’ve identified guys you’re comfortable will fit your program.”

One player who appears to fit that mold is Ethan Anderson, the Rebels’ first committed recruit from the Class of 2019. The point guard from Fairfax (Calif.) made his announcement on Sunday and said the Rebels’ years-long pursuit made a strong impression.

That leaves UNLV with one more open scholarship for 2019 (barring any transfers or early departures from the current roster), so expect Menzies to be more selective than ever as he courts prospects between now and the next signing period in November.

With hundreds of AAU teams descending on Las Vegas this week for various grass-roots tournaments, Menzies and his staff will be spread throughout the city taking in as many games as possible. But because the Rebels are bringing in a small 2019 class, Menzies said he is largely already focused on the players he wants.

“It’s an important period, but not so much as for the immediate signing class,” Menzies said. “July of 2018 is not as critical for the upcoming class. The guys that are going to be signing in November, you’re already down the road with them.”

“By the time these events occur in late July, most of the recruiting is already done,” Menzies continued. “These [events] are for showing support for kids who are already on your list, maybe a little bit more evaluating of the ones you’ve already identified.”

That means this week’s grass-roots events will have more value for UNLV as an early jump on the 2020 and 2021 classes, and the Rebels have already made inroads with some top prospects for those years.

It’s a more normal recruiting cycle, and after two years of massive roster upheaval, Menzies is glad to be back on schedule.

“I think we were fortunate we did well in our class of 2018, which probably took some pressure off for our 2019 class,” Menzies said. “However, every recruiting class is going to be important. Currently we have two scholarships available for 2019, and then 2020 is going to be important. Obviously we’re always going to look for the right fit, and now we can be a little more patient.”

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

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