December 13, 2018 Currently: 46° | Complete forecast

UNLV basketball recruiting ‘Baby LeBron’ for 2019

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Steve Marcus

Pyrotechnics explode during a pregame show before a UNLV game against the Air Force Falcons at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

LeBron James never played college basketball, but could UNLV have a chance to land the next LeBron?

That may be a stretch, but the Rebels do have a shot at Antavion Collum, a Top-100 prospect in the Class of 2019 who has listed UNLV among his final seven college choices.

After leading his Team CP3 squad to an 89-56 win over Team Melo at the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic on Thursday night, Collum wasn’t bashful when asked to describe his style of play.

“Baby LeBron,” he said with a smile.

Collum has a long way to go before he’s on the level of King James, but there are some physical comparisons to be made. Collum, a 6-foot-8 point-forward from Tennessee Prep (Memphis, Tenn.), is an athletic finisher who can play inside-out on the offensive end. ESPN rates him as the No. 75 player in the country, while 247 Sports has him at No. 94 and Rivals has him at No. 99.

Collum announced his final seven colleges in June, with UNLV, Florida State, Florida, Louisville, Missouri, Ole Miss and Georgetown making the cut.

UNLV is the only school in the western half of the country under consideration, but the Rebels have a helpful southern connection thanks to newly-named assistant coach Preston Laird, a former walk-on player at Memphis with strong ties to the area. Collum said Laird’s current fiancé was his third-grade teacher, and that has helped him develop a good relationship with the UNLV coach.

“He’s from Memphis, and his fiancé was my elementary-school teacher,” Collum said. “And we really just bonded from there. I feel like it’s a family environment.”

Collum said he will begin planning official visits after the AAU season concludes. He hasn’t taken any officials yet, but he remembers going on an unofficial tour of the UNLV campus with his former AAU team a few years ago because it featured a memorable pickup game against Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez, who played for the Lady Rebels from 2015 to 2017.

“We went on [an unofficial] visit a couple years ago and we played the Gonzalez twins,” Collum said. “So I’ve seen a little bit of the school. I didn’t get a chance to see much, because we went right to the gym, played, and walked around a little bit.”

Between the family atmosphere, his former teacher and the since-graduated Gonzalez twins, it seems likely that Collum will make room for UNLV when it comes time to take his official visits.

UNLV is projected to graduate two seniors after the 2018-19 season, and more scholarships could open up if other players decide to transfer. One spot is spoken for, as 2019 point guard Ethan Anderson committed last week.

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

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