Published Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | 10:47 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | 4:43 p.m.
Amauri Hardy is staying at UNLV.
Exactly two weeks after entering the NCAA transfer portal, the rising junior announced today he will withdraw his name and remain with the Runnin’ Rebels.
T.J. Otzelberger said during his introductory news conference that his top priority would be re-recruiting the current Rebels, and he has consistently hammered that point in the two weeks since. And no player was more important than Hardy, a shifty guard who averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists last season as a sophomore.
What Hardy’s decision means for UNLV:
The last time UNLV changed coaches, just about every rotation player and recruit fled the program, leaving Marvin Menzies to field a mismatched roster of whoever happened to be available late in the spring signing period. That won’t be the case this time.
Instead of starting completely from scratch, Otzelberger can begin his UNLV tenure by forming the team around Hardy. Heading into his junior season, Hardy should be able to handle 35 minutes per game in the backcourt, which is an extremely valuable contribution even before considering the upside of his offensive production. Locking up Hardy for two more seasons ensures that the Rebels have someone to build around.
Depending on who else Otzelberger can recruit between now and the start of the season, it’s looking like Hardy will be the focal point of the offense in 2019-20. He should be an excellent fit, as his ability to dribble-drive should produce a lot of layups and kick-out passes in Otzelberger’s spacious offensive system.
Hardy’s usage rate of 17.2 percent last year was second on the team only to Kris Clyburn’s 17.8 percent; expect Hardy to take a big jump next season as Otzelberger puts the ball in his hands and asks him to dictate the action to opposing defenses. It should be fun to watch.
Now that Hardy has given Otzelberger his stamp of approval, could other Rebels follow suit? Shakur Juiston, Joel Ntmabwe, Bryce Hamilton and Mbacke Diong are among those still in the transfer portal and exploring their options, but if Hardy’s re-commitment is enough to sway any of them, that would be an exponential win for UNLV.
Momentum is a real thing in recruiting. When one big-time prospect chooses a nontraditional program (such as a mid-major school), it makes it more acceptable for other top recruits to consider that school as a potential destination. Will Hardy’s decision make it easier for the other Rebels to say yes to Otzelberger?
UPDATE: Bryce Hamilton also opts not to transfer
Speaking of floodgates, just hours after Hardy announced his intention to stay at UNLV, rising sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton reportedly pulled his name out of the transfer portal.
Hamilton joined the Rebels last season as a highly-rated recruit, but playing time proved hard to come by. He played just 13.0 minutes per game and posted 4.3 points while making 29.6 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman.
Hamilton's high upside is intriguing, and Otelberger must believe he can unlock his scoring potential. If Hamilton can play up to his 4-star reputation, he and Hardy could combine to form a strong backcourt.